Passing on The Frugality Gene: Isla’s Home-Made Christmas Gifts

Last week, my colleague Will told me about the Christmas gifts his daughter Isla had made. Will and his wife Rachel managed, on one income, to become mortgage-free in their mid-thirties, and I thought, “The frugal gene is getting passed on to their kids!” I asked if Isla would be willing to be interviewed for this post, and I’m so glad the answer came back “Yes”! (There she is with her brother Xander, modelling her home-made creations.) 

Isla, how old are you?

I’m 9.

Please describe the Christmas gifts that you have made. Who will receive them?

I made two bracelets. One for my new aunt and one for my Grandma. They’re beautiful. I also made some Pokemon necklaces for my friends.

Explain how you made these gifts.

I cut up plastic and I drew what I wanted to be on them with Sharpies and then I put them in the oven. When they get into the oven, they curl up and it looks like they’re ruined but then after a few minutes they start shrinking to be small. It has to be number six plastic. It was from a sushi box and I was very happy because I love sushi. Before I put the plastic in the oven, I punched holes in each corner so it could be made into a bracelet.


Did your parents help you? If so, how?

My mom helped me put the bracelets together and daddy bought me the sushi.

Do you have other ideas for making gifts? If so, how did you get these ideas.

We’re going to make flavoured honey. We’re going to make it in the Instant Pot. We want to try making lemon, cinnamon, vanilla, and pine honey. Also, maybe sumac honey. We got the idea from Pinterest. Last year I made my mom a snow globe.

Which do you like better: making gifts or buying gifts? Explain why.

I like both because with buying I went to a craft sale and it was fun because I got to shop alone with my friend and so I found things by myself. It was very fun because they’re all going to be surprises. I also like making them because I love making stuff.

Do you like receiving gifts that someone else has made? If so, give an example of a home-made gift you’ve received that you really like. (And say why you like it.)

My Granny is amazing at felting and sewing. She made me lots of little toy felted gnomes and one giant one and she made my mommy a shawl made of felt and she also made me a purse, a cape, and slippers. My daddy made me moccasins. They’re SO cool! My mom and I also worked together to make me a doll. I like the presents they have made for me because they make them with lots and lots of love.

Will & Rachel, you have lived a frugal lifestyle from early in your marriage. As a result, you’ve given yourselves freedom from debt and the freedom to live on Will’s income while Rachel home schools the children. What have been the advantages of home-schooling for your family?

It’s been nice to have the time and flexibility to let the children follow and explore their interests and to spend lots of time learning and exploring together. We get to spend a lot of time outside and meeting up with other home-schooled children.

Do you give your children an allowance? Or do you give them a certain amount of money for chores? (If neither, through what means do you teach your children about managing money?)

We do give the children allowance when we remember but sometimes we all forget about it for a few weeks and then have to try to figure out how much we owe them. We don’t really give them money for chores. We do buy them toys when they really want something and it seems reasonable to us. If it’s something more expensive we encourage them to wait for their birthday or Christmas. When they want something that doesn’t seem like a reasonable purchase to us, we try to explain that in order to have money to do the fun things they like to do like skiing or horse riding, we can’t spend all of our money on toys. Isla also has started delivering the local paper and is saving the money she earns from that.

Do you intentionally try to instill the value of frugality in your son and daughter? Or do you think they’re just absorbing what they see in you?

I don’t really try to instill values in the kids. I just try to do what I think makes sense to me and let them arrive at their own conclusions. I’m sure they’ll have their own perspectives on these things that will change and develop throughout their lives.

Do you or Isla have anything more to add?

Isla says she enjoyed the interview. She is happy you asked the questions and is looking forward to seeing the blog.

Isla, so many people will enjoy reading what you and your parents have had to say. By sharing your great ideas for making gifts, I bet you’ve given some readers the inspiration to give it a try too. Thank you so much for sharing pictures of your beautiful bracelets. Merry Christmas!

Do you make any of the Christmas gifts you give? How do you feel when you receive a home-made gift? Your comments are welcome.


18 comments on “Passing on The Frugality Gene: Isla’s Home-Made Christmas Gifts

  1. Isla, you are a treasure! Those bracelets are awesome! 🙂 I love homemade gifts. I have a sister who is a crafter, and you just can’t beat the time and love someone puts into a homemade present. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the fabulous Isla and her family! 🙂

  2. Yesterday afternoon, my wife had our kids sit down and string little bells onto pipe cleaners, all of which she got really cheap at the craft store. They loved it and with a little help they make great little ornaments for grandparents and such.

    1. That sounds like a craft that even I could do. I hope that you’ll get to keep some of those ornaments for your own tree too : )

  3. Good for you, Isla!!! I know the recipients will love your homemade gifts. Some of my very favorite gifts are things my kids have made for me. Great job, Will and Rachel. You’re passing on some important treasures to your children!

    1. Even though Rachel says they’re not intentionally instilling values in their children, there’s an enormous power in example, and I’m with you in saying that Will and Rachel are passing on “treasures”.

  4. What an inspiring story! Congratulations to the parents on raising youngsters with such great values. I am tempted to try my hand at some new craft this holiday! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Deepika. I’m sure that Isla would encourage you to give it a try – and to report back on how it turned out. Good luck!

  5. Beautiful bracelets Isla!!! Homemade gifts are great to give and receive. It’s the thought that counts. We have given some photo related items over the years, photo books, etc and they have always been a big hit. Keep up the great work!

  6. Isla, I love the bracelets! So creative and beautiful! I always love receiving homemade gifts because I know how much time, love and attention was put into making them.

    We usually make quite a few of our own gifts, but didn’t get as many done this year. Some of our common homemade creations include jam, scarves, hats, and bird feeders.

  7. I love this! When I was a kid I really enjoyed making gifts for people. Now my skills have not kept up with the standard one would expect from an adult. I don’t really like crafting anymore so I don’t make gifts. My mom always made fancy bread for teacher gifts and others would even order it from her to give as gifts. I just tried to make the same thing and it didn’t turn out gift-worthy (though we’re still eating it.) Anyway, thanks for sharing how this family is practicing frugality in fun & creative ways.

    1. I’m not a craft-maker either – but I’m so impressed with people who can pull it off. I bet that your fancy bread would be considered gift-worthy by your friends. If you’re eating it, it must be pretty good : )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *