Christmas On A Budget: Handmade Gifts

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December 1st is here which means that the holiday season is officially underway! And I am in hardcore crunch mode to finish off all my handmade gifts.

I’ve been making gifts for people as far back as I can remember. My grandmother and mother still have on their Christmas trees little paper ornaments with scribbles on them and yarn looped through that I made when I was two. But even if you haven’t always grown up making things, handmaking gifts can be a great way to save money. I look at it like this: If you only have $10 (or however) much to spend on each person, would you rather search for a ten dollar item, or spend that on materials and put a little time into making something them truly unique? I always opt for the latter!

I can definitely understand the intimidation of handmade gifts if you don’t consider yourself an arts and crafts kind of person. But trust me, there is a plethora of projects even the least artsy person can make! Here a few tips to get you started.

  •  Plan ahead. Given that it’s December 1st, if you’re just starting, pick projects that don’t take an incredible amount of time to do. You don’t want to be adding stress with this venture!
  •  Try and pick an item that really ties into your recipients hobbies. I find that a handmade item tailored towards something they love makes it that much more special. For example if you have a book lover in your life, consider making a bookmark or e-reader case.
  • Utilize sites like Pinterest or Craft Gawker for inspiration. They are PACKED with amazing things, and are great even if you don’t consider yourself a crafty person. There are so many tutorials at your fingertips on Pinterest that I’d be amazed if you don’t find something useful! Plus, you can search the broadest terms and still get results. Although it won’t come with tutorials, browsing Etsy can be a great inspiration source as well.

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Still having trouble coming up with something? There’s nothing wrong with a more ‘generic’ homemade gift either. Below are some of my favorite options, which I make quite often!

1. Ornaments.
Even though they are only used once a year, I still think they are a great and practical gift. I love unwrapping my ornaments every year and seeing the ones friends have made for me! Plus, they are so customizable! And generally, incredibly cheap to make.

2. Photographs.
As someone who loves taking and looking at photos, I think photos make a great gift. Plus, there is so much you can do if you don’t just want to give a photo in a frame (though that is a great option as well). One of my favorite options is this:
Take an 8.5×11″ piece of paper (regular size), and write a limerick about the recipient, leaving space at the top of the page to attach a regular 4×6 photo. Type and print it if you don’t want to handwrite, attach the photo to the top using double sided tape, toss it in a frame, and voila – a lovely gift! I have done this for both friends and family in the past. Not a writer, you say? No problem! Make it silly! I often find the sillier/’worse’ the poem is, the better it makes the gift.

3. Photobooks.
In the same vein as above, photobooks are a great option for people with a bit more time. I find the two best options for this are either a scrapbook style or digital photobook. For a scrapbook style you can hit up most dollar stores or Wal-Mart type stores and get supplies on the cheap. Then just assemble your pages! It doesn’t have to be fancy – I’ve used old books found at the recycling center and altered them into memory books for both my mom and best friend. I like the vintage old book charm it adds! Digital photobooks are great not only for those intimidated by crafting, but also for time. Sites like Shutterfly and Blurb have pre-set layouts where all you have to do is add your photos and boom! Instant gift. In the case of Shutterfly, they run promos ALL the time, especially in this season, so keep an eye out for coupon codes.

4. Beauty Products
Don’t be intimidated by this one! It is actually really simple to whip up a nice sugar scrub, bath soak, or facial oil for a gift! Plus, you can often make lots at once, and knock out a few recipients in one session.

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Here’s a list of some of my favorite tutorials and projects for handmade gifts from around the web! These are all what I consider a beginner craft level.


A custom monogram photo letter via Ryan Greenleaf Photography Blog. Materials needed: Any kind of letter, personal photos, scotch tape, Mod Podge & foam brush, scissors.

Photo blocks via Craftibilities. Materials needed: Wooden blocks, paint (optional), sandpaper (optional), personal photos, Mod Podge & foam brush.


This lovely glass ornament via Yellow Bliss Road (#1 on the list). Materials needed: Clear glass ornaments, sheet music or old books, scissors.

And this other lovely glass ornament, also via Yellow Bliss Road (#6 on the list). Materials needed: Clear glass ornaments, Epsom salt, Mod Podge, funnel, water.

This fabulous vase via The Lettered Cottage. Materials needed: Large glass jar, foam letter stickers, spray paint (any color you like).

Excellent glass jar photo frames via Photojojo. Materials needed: Various sized glass jars, personal photos, ruler, Exacto knife, pencil

An adorably rustic tealight holder via I Love This & That. Materials needed: Glass jar, book paper, scissors, glue, twine/ribbon for the jar top (optional).

No sew pillow cover via Organize and Decorate Everything. Materials needed: A pillow, and fabric equal to 3x wider and 2x taller than your pillow.

This super cute e-reader cover via Unexpected Elegance. Materials needed: old book close in size to your e-reader, a cereal box, hot glue gun, fabric, scissors, a strip of elastic (18″ should be more than enough!).

Either make the whole spa kit or just the face oil – via Gamerwife. Materials needed for face oil:  Olive Oil, Castor Oil, Argan Oil, Tea Tree Oil, Rosemary Oil

A ginger bath soak via Tried & True. Materials needed: Medium to large glass jar, epsom salt, sea salt, baking soda, ground ginger.

This last one is a huge list of homemade salts and soaks via Tipnut. Most are pretty simply, and all you need besides ingredients is a glass jar!

Hope you found something useful here! Tune in next Monday for the next part of the series: Food!

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8 thoughts on “Christmas On A Budget: Handmade Gifts

  1. Sara Strauss says:

    I absolutely love all of these ideas! Luckily I only have a few people to buy presents for and my stepmom would love to get a cool ornament or a glass jar photo with a family photo!
    ~Sara

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