The holiday season is coming up fast, and you know what that means... Time to shell out hundreds -- or even thousands -- of dollars for gifts. When your family just won't agree to do a Secret Santa or one family has morphed into several through years of divorce and remarriage, the cost of getting everyone a present they'll like can seem daunting on a budget. But don't worry, The Things has you covered! Here are 15 DIY (or DIY-ish) holiday gift ideas that are readily consumable, enjoyable, and sure to put a smile on Aunt Maud's face. Swap out a couple mall-bought presents for some of these babies and you'll have plenty of money left over to go drinking, er, pay your bills.
15 Holiday Coffee
Don't trust a relative who doesn't drink coffee. Get a couple pounds of coffee from Costco (maybe decaf for Grandma), raid the spice cabinet, and you're good to go. These directions are originally based on a recipe from Cosmopolitan, but you can vary the spices for a myriad of different flavors.
For each 1 lb. ground coffee, add
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
Mix coffee and spices in a large bowl. Pour coffee mixture into mason jars and put one cinnamon stick or vanilla bean pod in each. Tie ribbons around the jars and you have a unisex gift your relatives will use instead of donating to Goodwill by February. They will think of you every morning!
14 Relaxing Bath Salt Blend
Give the gift of calm with your own homemade bath salt blend. This is another one of those "anything looks classy in a mason jar" gifts. Just make sure the person you're giving it to actually has a bath tub! I've been told you can just rub the bath salts all over yourself in the shower, but that doesn't have the same peaceful ambiance... Anyhow.
To make this gift, buy large bags of bath salts at a pharmacy or health and beauty store; you may have to order the essential oil online, but you probably already have the tea.
For each 1 lb. of bath salts, add
- 20-30 drops lavender essential oil
- the contents of two chamomile tea bags
Mix ingredients in a large bowl, then pour into mason jars and -- you guessed it -- tie a ribbon around the jar. You're a regular Martha Stewart!
13 Your Photos Into Stationary
Whether you own a real camera or you let Instagram filters do the heavy lifting, you can turn your best shots into greeting cards for your family. Visit Pixels.com, upload your pictures, and order away. The 5x7 greeting cards are glossy with brilliant colors -- your cousins will ooo and ahh over your iPhone sunset shots. The more cards you buy, the less they cost. You can also make a plethora of other gifts out of your photos: tote bags, throw pillows, t-shirts, phone cases...
Not a great photographer? You can also purchase other people's pictures on the site -- one of my favorites is Connecticut nature photographer Vanessa David, but there are many other types of photography and artwork on the site. Be the edgiest one around the Christmas tree by giving out some throw pillows from the nude collection!
12 Recreate Childhood Photos
As you can see from this Buzzfeed article, recreating childhood photos is all the rage. From Halloween costumes to baths and diaper shots, these pictures are creepily hilarious! Shoot a good one, slap it in a frame, and now Mom has quite a conversation piece for her desk at work.
Taking "childhood" photos also makes a great opportunity for family togetherness -- in the case of bathtub photo recreations, maybe too much family togetherness! If you are doing a photo that involves one of your parents, you will have to be very careful not to ruin the surprise for the other one. (Of course this is more a gift for parents than for other relatives, and obviously your friends don't care what dumb stuff you and your siblings did when you were little.)
11 Personalized Recipe Book
Do you have several signature dishes? Yes.
Do you mind sharing your secrets? No.
Then this is the easy DIY gift for you to make. Buy a small photo album (3x5 or 4x6) and corresponding index cards. Write your recipes neatly on the cards – or type, print, and cut/paste them onto the cards if you have terrible handwriting. Include a variety of dishes: appetizers, main courses, and dessert. Be aware of your intended audience's food preferences and health concerns. For instance, don't make a cookbook full of lasagna and pot roast recipes for your vegan cousin – that's a surefire way to get some crappy DIY gift from her next year. Hey, wait a sec....
Add some craft store stickers to the cards and insert them into the photo album to make it look like you put some effort in. (This present might be DIY, but it is not crappy!) And BAM! You're a regular Emeril. If you want to be really fancy, purchase the nonperishable ingredients to the recipient's favorite recipe and give it to her along with the cookbook.
10 Homemade Soap
....And not the kind from Fight Club.
Nothing says, "I really care about you" like making a Christmas gift out of caustic chemicals. Visit DIY Natural for complete instructions on how to make lovely homemade soaps in your own kitchen. Be sure to read and reread the "A Word About Lye" section: " It may cause a choking sensation in your throat. Don’t worry, it’s not permanent..."
Super. So anyhow, there are lots of neat things you can add to your soaps if you make it through the lye step without an emergency room visit. Use some essential oils, dried herbs, oatmeal, or even coffee grounds to make your soaps extra-special. Or just buy some from the experts and tell Grandma you made them yourself.
9 Irish Cream Liqueur
I have been a recipient of homemade "Bailey's" and can attest that it is delicious! You can find many recipes for it on Google, like this one from AllRecipes.com. Keep your gift in the fridge until it's time to give; you don't want to make it too far in advance, but it will last up to two months refrigerated. Also, much like our mason jar DIY gifts, this one is best presented with a cute ribbon tied around it. If you're feeling generous, attach a small card with the recipe -- or even include the recipe in your DIY recipe book and give that along with the Irish cream. Mind = blown.
8 Cute Makeup Bags
OMG, these fruity makeup bags are sooooooo cute. The instructions say you need a sewing machine to make them, but I'll bet you could get away with doing it needle-and-thread if you're handy and patient. They also specify creating your own little fruit stamps and laboriously stamping and painting the fabric until it is covered with perfect pineapples and watermelons. But why not just pick out a funky fabric instead, so you don't have to do all that stamping? Choose your recipient's favorite TV show, movie, or comic for extra personalization. Then choose a solid fabric in a bright, contrasting color to line inside (and a matching zipper). Finally, stuff the bag with nail polish, shaving supplies, candy, or anything else you think your friends and family would enjoy!
7 Mason Jar Survival Kit
Speaking of goodies in a container, mason jar survival kits are the perfect alternative to Idea #8 if you are not crafty. Instead of sewing a whole zipper bag, just put a bunch of stuff in a mason jar and... You guessed it... Tie a ribbon around it. Here are some ideas:
- Parenting Survival kit – Advil, travel tissue, hand sanitizer, nips of hard liquor, chapstick
- College (Or Teacher's!) Survival kit – Airborne, hand sanitizer, Five Hour Energy, Advil, candy
- Wedding Day Survival kit – needle and thread, mini-scissors, detergent stick, perfume sample, Listerine strips, lipgloss, Advil
Clearly, everyone needs Advil. You could practically stick a box of Advil in a mason jar, tie a ribbon around it, and call it an "All Purpose Survival Kit." Advil for everyone!
6 Tea Wreath
If you have a tea-lover in your family, this clothespin tea wreath is an excellent gift. As Huffington Post writer Amy Marturana says, "This wreath is [...] perfect for entertaining. By displaying your tea selection, guests can easily choose which one they want without digging through the pantry. Plus, it’s a cute and colorful way to brighten up anyone’s kitchen." You can use random tea bags you already have (as long as they are in individual packets) or you can get teas that purposely color-coordinate.
For the tea wreath project, you'll need the following supplies:
- two pieces of 12x12 cardboard
- patterned paper
- 24 clothespins
- 24 teabags of various flavors
- hot glue
- ribbon for hanging
5 Clothespin Snowflake Ornaments
While we're on the topic of clothespins, whose relatives couldn't use a few more heartwarming homemade ornaments?? These are especially heartwarming when given to them by slightly younger, broke adults...
These clothespin ornaments might be even easier to make than the tea wreaths. Basically, you take the springs off a bunch of clothespins and glue them together to form a snowflake. Then you spray paint them and glue some stuff to them. Ta-Da! For more eloquent directions and decorating suggestions, visit Muslin and Merlot. Seriously though, think of all the things you could put in the middle aside from the book cutout and leather heart that is pictured -- bottle caps, pompoms, puzzle pieces, seashells... Make yours as unique as a real snowflake!
4 Dangly Earrings
You can make jewelry, who knew?? Seriously, an eight-year-old can put together dangly earrings using a pliers and a couple of necklace charms, and no one would know they were DIY. Of course this is probably a gift for your female friends and relatives, but not necessarily. Here are the supplies you need:
- Small charms or pendants (two matching or coordinating pendants for each pair of earrings)
- Fish hook earring wires
- Jump rings
- Flat nose beading pliers
Separate the jump ring using the pliers to help. Attach the pendant and fish hook, and then close the jump ring. Voila, you just made a pair of earrings. Some inspiration:
- Pentacle pendant earrings for your newly Wiccan cousin
- Coordinating pairs such as lock and key or sea horse and starfish
- Swords for the Game of Thrones fan
3 Birdseed Cake
Everyone has a bird enthusiast in their family -- it's probably your mom, grandma, or favorite aunt. This birdseed cake will warm her heart and attract dozens of delightful feathered friends to her yard. Here is what you'll need, according to DIY site House of Hawthornes:
- 3 cups wild bird food
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 3 tablespoons Karo syrup
- 1 packet unflavored gelatin
- 3/4 cup flour
- non-stick cooking spray
- Jello mold or bundt pan
- string, twine or yarn
- a straw to make a hole in the mold if needed
Remember to keep the birdseed cake refrigerated until it's time to give to the lucky bird-lover. For the full instructions on how to make this adorable DIY gift, visit House of Hawthornes.
2 Cute-Message Burlap Sign
Forget buying an inspirational sign from the home decor of Target. You can make your own! This particular message caught my eye because my brother moved from chilly New England to sunny San Diego last year, so he would definitely agree with this sentiment. Of course you can come up with another message, like a Bible verse, book quote, or favorite family saying. For instance, my father would love, "Every day's a holiday and every meal a feast."
Here are the supplies you will need:
- Staple gun
- Fabric letters
- Decou-Page fabric glue
Basically you staple the burlap around the canvas and glue the letters on. For complete instructions (and more on how you make the fabric letters) visit House on the Way.
1 Comic Hero Coasters
It's a good thing I'm writing this article, because it's giving me all kinds of gift ideas! These might end up going to a bachelor friend who loves the Muppets and superhero movies... Hopefully he doesn't read this article! But anyhow, this project from What's Ur Home Story is kitschy and looks super easy to make. You only need a few supplies, most of which you can get from your local craft store:
- Cork board or pre-made cork coasters
- Mod Podge Gloss
- Old comic books
- Xacto knife
- Sponge brush
- A hard surface to work on
The possibilities of what to use for the coasters are endless. Instead of comics, you could use movie posters, copies of favorite photographs, concert fliers, wrapping paper, magazine clippings, or even unwanted CD jackets.
This holiday season your creativity can take you beyond the limits of your budget. What are your favorite DIY gifts to give and receive?