Monday 1 December 2014

Magpie Monday - Charity Shop Christmas Presents

Yes, Magpie Monday is back!!!

Brought out of retirement after a rather unpleasant exchange on Twitter from someone who was vehemently opposed to giving second-hand gifts.  It transpires that she completely misunderstood me, but as she then blocked me she didn't see my further explanations, but what did cheer me was the huge positive response the discussion received from far and wide.  I'm a passionate supporter of preloved items.  My whole house is full of them and I see absolutely no reason why I can't buy gifts from charity shops too.

I mean, it's a win:win isn't it?  You get to make a contribution to a good cause as well as get some bargains at this expensive time of the year.  I like that I can give a unique gift too, one that's had more thought put into it than simply plucking it off the shelf in the supermarket.

I'm joining in with the Salvation Army's #MyCharityChallenge to show you some of the great finds I've got from charity shops lately which will be given as festive gifts.

Research shows that on average, Brits will budget to spend £208 on gifts and £32 on clothes for the big day ( and those stats are a few years old now so I suspect it's much higher this year).  Wouldn't it be fabulous if we could all pledge to spend a proportion of that money in a charity shop to support a good cause? Imagine how much money could be raised for charity.

It costs £9 for The Salvation Army to bring a homeless person in from the cold, £19 for a Christmas box for a family in need and £28 would pay for Christmas lunch for 5 older people giving them a meal and companionship on one of the loneliest days of the year.

When you put it like that, really, why wouldn't you spend some of your gift budget in charity shops?

There are rows and rows of fabulous party dresses, dinner jackets and children's outfits to buy for parties and Christmas day, and it's easy to find brand new items and gift sets in charity shops, which makes buying from there just as simple as buying from High Street stores.  From my time running a charity shop I know that most stores will be squirrelling away decorations; good quality gift items; party clothes and new labelled goods all year just for the Christmas shoppers, so take a look and see what you can find.

To hopefully encourage you further, I've put together a few gift ideas that I've sourced from various charity shops.

With a bit of imagination, used items can make great gifts on their own, or to bulk out other purchases.  There's nothing wrong with mixing old and new to make a unique gift.

Gift Ideas

Herb planter: Under £8
Old enamel bread bin - £1.99
Selection of herbs, 3 for 2 £1.25 each from supermarket

Full of fragrant and vibrant herbs, wouldn't this planter make the perfect gift for a food loving friend?

Beer and Nuts: Under £5
Glass tankard: 99p
Beer and peanuts from supermarket £3.80

A lovely glass paired with a bottle of craft beer or seasonal ale and some peanuts and someone's all set for some nice R & R!  Incidentally, I spotted identical glasses in John Lewis for £18 each.

Pretty Sweet Dish: Under £2
Floral trinket dish: 99p
Box of Turkish Delight: £1

Using pretty charity shop finds to  theme a gift is a great way of stretching your budget and giving a thoughtful token gift.  This attractive rose patterned Portmerion trinket dish was a steal at 99p, with a quick wash it makes the perfect container for some rose flavoured sweets.  Just wrap in cellophane with a pretty ribbon and when the sweets have gone, your recipient will still have a useful trinket dish to keep on their dressing table or desk.

Sweet Tin: Under £3
Vintage Home Sweet Home Tin: 99p
Chocolates: £1.99

Vintage tins are great to look out for for decanting wrapped sweets or chocolates or homemade cookies into.  The tin makes a practical gift in itself too.

Bath Decanter: Under £5
Glass decanter: £2.99
Bubble bath: £2

You'll often find glass decanters in charity shops.  We rarely use them anymore for wines and spirits but they make beautiful bathroom displays filled with colourful bubble baths.  Go for delicate cut glass decanters or more pared down versions like this one.  Make sure you secure the stopper with sellotape before wrapping to prevent spills.

Mini gardening set: Under £2
Mini tool set: £1.99
Seeds: free with a magazine

When we ripped out our old kitchen recently, we kept the old Belfast sink as a mini garden for Ruby. She's excited about having her own area to plant flowers and vegetables.  This little set of fork and trowels is just the perfect stocking filler for her, and I've added some packs of seeds to get her started.

Winter Wooly: Under £4
Angora Topshop Cardigan £3.99

I was chuffed to find this super-soft angora shrug/shawl cardigan last week.  It's in a beautiful pale sage colour and I'm quite tempted to keep it myself.  Check out the brand new labels from Topshop, and I got it for only £3.99.  Do look through the rails as you can often find things brand new with labels still on.  If you're planing on gifting clothes this way though, do check it over thoroughly for any flaws, and make sure it will fit the person you're giving it to or be honest about where you purchased it from - you wouldn't want the embarrassment of them trying to exchange it only to be told "sorry we haven't sold that range since 2010!"

Pet bandana: Under £2
Square scarf: £1.99

We are a nation of pet lovers, and we're estimated to spend £1.7billion on our pets at Christmas!!  Wouldn't it be better to spend some of that money with an animal charity and buy from one of their shops to support those animals who need care and love?  I don't think I've ever been in a charity shop that doesn't have a scarf rail, I mean we rarely wear headscarves nowadays do we?  Take a simple square scarf, fold it diagonally into a triangle (right sides together) and stitch around the sides leaving a small opening to turn it right side out.  Hand stitch the opening close and hey-presto you have a super-quick and easy bandana for your stylish pooch for less than £2!

Teacup Gifts - under £5

Search for pretty vintage teacups that you can get crafty with.  Either make some hot chocolate spoons so the cups can be used as intended, or get upcycling!  They can be turned into candles, pin cushions or pretty bird feeders like I did here.

Gift Wrapping

Each year we spend a fortune on gift wrapping paper, ribbons, gift tags and embellishments.  Let's face it, most of it ends up ripped and in the bin (unless you're frugal like me and save the ribbons for the following year and save your cards to make gift tags).  Why not wrap more ethically this year and not only save money and save waste, but raise some money for your favourite charity too.

Scarves are a great eco way to wrap gifts, and chosen carefully can be part of the actual present too, not just rubbish to go into the bin.

Scour charity shops for old, damaged or out-of-date maps, A-Zs, atlases and OS maps.  These make great wrapping paper and I bought 2 huge old atlases for 50p each which will give me tonnes of wrapping paper.  You can personalise them too with countries or places your recipient has visited and I like the idea of using this old map of Greenland and The North Pole for Christmas wrapping!

Sewing patterns are also often found in charity shops.  They make great wrap for crafty friends and relatives.  The paper is very thin so either use it like tissue paper for filling and protecting, or use several layers to prevent your gift from peeping through.  Finish with a stitched ribbon or better still, an old measuring tape if you can find one.  I paid 25p per pattern and there's loads of sheets in each pack.


Again, you can spend a fortune on decorations each year.  But many charity shops will have selections of baubles and decorations for sale.  If you're lucky you might find some vintage glass baubles, although these do get snapped up quickly.

Or, get creative with your decorations.  This Christmas tree is made from an old paperback book and cost me 50p plus a few hours idle folding in front of the TV.  I think I might make some snips into it to make 'branches' and maybe add a sprinkling of glitter, but I'm pretty happy with my first attempt!

So, have I convinced you to take a look in charity shops this Christmas?  What will you find?  Or are you a lover of thrifted items already?

I hope you're happy to see Magpie Monday back out of semi retirement!  I'm all fired up now to post on the first Monday of each month and I hope you'll join me in linking up your preloved finds.



  1. I've missed Magpie Monday so I'm very pleased to see you back... although I'm having a blogging break at the moment, I anticipate returning soon. Brilliant gift ideas, I'm bookmarking this page!

    1. Ahh thank you lovely Fiona. Enjoy your blogging break. hope to see you back at it soon. x

  2. Such a fab post. So many great ideas. I'm defininitely going to be looking out for things to wrap presents in and old tins!

    1. Thank you Gidders, hope it's inspired you x

  3. Really lovely ideas - especially like the old tins full of sweets, I'd be very happy to receive one of those! It's a shame that Twitter lady got the wrong end of the stick x

    1. Thanks Make Do Mum, yes, shame, I wonder what she'd think of these?

  4. I would be perfectly,happy to receive one of those pretty little bowls full of sweeties. I can't think why that never occurred to me to do. I wouldnt mind at all if my friends chose to give me gifts bought from charity shops ....used or otherwise....

    1. Hi Cherie,

      Thanks for commenting. I was chuffed with the pretty little dish too. x

  5. Oh Liz, I missed these posts! So glad you are back with them! I love your ideas- really super! My brother in law wraps his presents in this lovely white starry material and these gold ribbons each year and then we give them back and he wraps them in the same each year- it works well I find!x

    1. It's good to be back!

      Love that idea of recycling, I bet it's become a firm family tradition now!

  6. So glad to see Magpie Monday is back - I've linked up!!

    I'm really impressed with your fantastic finds and clever ideas about how they can be presented as gifts! I love giving and receiving pre-loved items as presents, so I've saved a link to this blog post for future reference.

    Thanks xxx

    1. Thanks Ruthie, and thanks for linking up your lovely post. x

  7. Lovely post, shame that woman won't ever get to read it really!

  8. What a fantastic post, I'm feeling so inspired! Most definitely off to the charity shops tomorrow to have a good hunt around! Top of my Christmas wish list would be pretty dishes and plates etc for me to use for blog props/ food photography, there's no doubt the charity shops would be the best place to find them!

    1. Oh thanks Grace. Yes, all my vintage plates and cups etc are from charity shops or boot sales, it's the perfect place to pick up this kind of thing. Can't wait to see what you find, please come back and link up x

  9. OMG! love these ideas! Especially the herb garden and bubble bath I so wouldn't have thought of those but they make beautiful gifts!

    1. Ahh thanks Joanne! I have lots of decanters of bubble bath in my bathroom - I think they look so much nicer than plastic bottles!

  10. What brilliant ideas!!

  11. I do love a well stocked charity shop :) It's so much more fun thinking up the gifts and sorting them out over time, rather than going buying all the gifts in one mad shopping spree...

  12. What a lot of brilliant ideas. I'm very much a lover of thrifted items already, so many of my immediate family's presents are Charity Shop buys, there are so many 'wins' to it, I'm a bit more wary of giving pre-loved to others, but it does often happen as part of a gift - baskets, cups, fabric used etc. Very happy you're bringing Magpie Monday back.

  13. Great ideas in there Liz. I just never would think of them. Love the wrapping paper idea.

  14. Over the moon to see Magpie Monday again and getting to know what you find in 2015 and finding other thrifty and quirky bloggers. Always include preloved amongst my Christmas shopping - you give to the person and to the charity that way and it is supposed to be the season for giving. Was tempted by one of those folded Christmas trees recently but resisted as was £15 and never thought I could make my own or get the children doing it as part of art and craft for home education. Thank you

  15. Some great ideas there, I'm looking forward to reading more Magpie Monday posts and hoping to join in too. Here in Cyprus we have few charity shops but we do have a great thrift shop where you can make money selling your unwanted things as well as bargain hunting.

  16. Oh, I do love a good second-hand gift! In Australia buying second-hand is often no cheaper than buying new; although at long last that seems to be changing. (It used to be that pilled, old, stretched out t-shirts cost $6 second-hand, which is crazy when a new t-shirt costs $5, and that's at full-price.) There is one shop I frequent that has great prices on toys, games, and books - often they're brand new or very near to it, for as little as 50 cents each. You can bet my kids have gotten their fair share of second-hand presents over the years! And then of course there's my favourite antique shop - I've found quite a few treasures for my mum there, things she can't find overseas where she lives. (Australia has some really lovely 1920s/1930s linens and gorgeous English china from the same era.)

    One small hint - More isn't necessarily better. If you know the tastes of the person you're buying for, select one, possibly two pieces, and present them nicely. If you give one or two second-hand items you can always create the illusion they actually came from some nice expensive antique store somewhere. If you give a huge box of second-hand items (unless of course it's something that goes together, like a tea set or china set) it's pretty easy for the recipient to guess, Huh, these must've been cheap. My MIL gave me a huge box of mismatched second-hand items for Christmas one year. There were 2 things in there that I love. I know she gave me the box because she can't 'read' my style very well (we have very different tastes!) and she thought that way I'd be sure to get something I loved; but if she'd been able to 'read' my style better, and picked out those two things, and given them to me, it would've seemed like a more exclusive or up-market gift, than just "here's a box of stuff, maybe you'll like something."

  17. Those are great and very inspiring ideas. I especially like the idea of using old maps or sewing patterns to wrap gifts.

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