12 DIY Christmas Gifts That’ll Make Your Loved Ones (and Your Budget) Happy

I grew up with a big family, which made it hard to buy everyone something nice at Christmas.

My gift options were to shop at the dollar store or “do it yourself.”

While the dollar store is by far the easier path, DIY gifts are a genuine labor of love. But you don’t have to be Martha Stewart or a contestant on “Making It” to explore the DIY route. It’s more about the gesture than making a perfectly crafted artisanal present. Your loved ones will likely appreciate a heartfelt and useful gift more than a store-bought one.

Plus, staying at home to make these gifts will save you from the impulse purchases shopping can bring.

12 DIY Christmas Gift Ideas to Try This Holiday Season

1. Photo Magnets

An assortment of wood cut outs lay next to modge moge.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

These are so much fun to make, and there are dozens of ways to get the job done.  

Use precut wood shapes, tiles, glass stones or mason jar lids — all found at your local arts and crafts store — as your base. Use some Mod Podge (a glue-type sealant) to adhere your printed photos to the base. Once dry, glue magnet strips to the back of the base. Done.

Or, you can use adhesive magnetic sheets for bigger images. You can make hundreds of these personal DIY gifts and inexpensively give your friends and family all the feels.

2. Baked Goods

Chocolate chip cookies sit on a plate.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

The fastest way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. Home-baked treats will do the trick.

Try making holiday-themed cookies with cookie cutters and decorations, or play with seasonal flavors like peppermint, ginger and chocolate.

Turn up the sweetness with some fudge, challenge yourself to whip up toffee or make a loaf of banana bread (my mother’s signature baked good).

Bake your goods in large batches and deliver them to family, friends and coworkers in reusable holiday tins, treat bags or Tupperware.

3. Family Cookbook

Covertly gather recipes from your family members and put them into a special family cookbook.

Ask family members to share their recipes or take notes next time someone whips up a casserole or batch of cookies. Maybe grandma has a box of handwritten recipes you can convert.

Create an accessible digital version online or assemble your own hard copy. Free and low-cost templates and software are available if you want to do it yourself.

The cookbook will be a treasured gift for generations to come. Just don’t tell anyone else what’s in the sauce, because we all know that’s a family secret.

4. Pickled Fruits and Veggies

Pickled vegetables make great Christmas presents.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Use a hot water bath to pickle fruits and vegetables. You can pickle anything from cucumbers, green beans and carrots to cauliflower and pears. Find out your relatives’ favorites and surprise them with a homemade jar — or five.

One minimal investment in canning equipment and the basic ingredients can yield enough to give something to everyone special in your life during the holidays. Go a step further and create your own cheeky product labels for the jars.

You might find a workshop in your city to teach you how. Follow our pickle tutorial or use herbs and vegetables from your garden to save on produce costs.

5. Framed Pictures

Love that photo of you and mom on vacation? What about the one of all your best friends together? Frame it.

Scope out affordable picture frames at thrift stores, dollar stores, Michael’s (it always has a coupon available) or another major retailer.  Or spruce up and decorate an old picture frame with buttons.

Once you know what size frame you have, get the highest-resolution copy of the picture and have it printed to size at a local photo processor (CVS, Walgreens, Walmart). Each print usually costs less than $1. Too many photos to narrow down? Assemble an entire photo album.

6. Ornaments

Commemorate the year with a homemade ornament using paper, glass, precut shapes or reusable everyday products like wine corks, popsicle sticks and bottle caps. Spend a Saturday and craft them all yourself, or get the kids or significant other involved.

Make cheeky ones using pictures of the kids or fur babies, or you can tailor them specifically to your home state or siblings. Start a tradition and create a new one every year.

7. Mason Jar Mixtures

A mason jar mixture is wrapped in ribbons.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Assemble an edible gift in a jar. Concoct your own specialty holiday recipe like salsa, dry soup mix, hot chocolate, snack mix, nuts and cookie ingredients. Shoot, you can even go the alcohol route and infuse vodka.

All you need is a case of Mason jars, your ingredients and a recipe tag. The tag should include ingredients and any baking instructions.

If it’s really good, you’ll have everyone excited for next year’s batch.

8. Kid Art

A child's art work hangs on the work desk of a person.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

There’s nothing wrong with this kind of child labor. The rugrats get creative and you get cheap DIY Christmas gifts out of it. Win-win.

Gather non-toxic paints, glitter and large pieces of posterboard (paper, cardboard or canvas work, too) for the kiddos to craft their masterpiece upon. Let them go to town. Once it’s finished and dry, cut up the project into frameable pieces. Sign and date the bottom like a true artist.

Frame the pieces and give them out as gifts. I have the one my nieces made me in 2011 on my desk.

9. Coasters

Do your civic duty and save all tables from condensation rings by making DIY coasters for your friends and family. It’s a cheap and easy gift you can’t go wrong with, because everyone needs coasters, especially funky (or classy) homemade ones.  

Craft DIY coasters out of ceramic tiles, wood slices and pressed flowers, mason jar lids, popsicle sticks or fabric. The picture magnets mentioned above can double as coasters if you skip the magnetic strips.

Sets of four are standard, so put on some Netflix and settle into a project weekend.

10. Pressed Flowers

Pick wildflowers on a walk, or save flowers from a special occasion and use them to create a piece of art.

Press the flowers with a book or iron and display them between glass, on paper, as a bookmark or matted onto a candle holder or key ring. There are a surprising amount of pressed flower projects to try.

While the art of flower pressing takes time, the elegantly preserved souvenir will be worth it.

11. Homemade Spices

Homemade spices can make a great, affordable Christmas present.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Homemade spices, seasonings and extracts are an affordable and practical gift for the food lovers in your life.

Awaken your inner chef and concoct a spice combination that suits your personality or complements a slice of your favorite meat. Blend a piquant taco seasoning, dry rub or apple and pumpkin pie spice mixes.

Just don’t forget to add your own labels for that extra zing.

12. Knitted or Crocheted Goods

Homemade scarves, hats and gloves make for affordable Christmas presents.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

My favorite handmade gifts over the years have been knit scarves and shawls my mother made.

Knitted and crocheted goods are truly one-of-a-kind gifts.  Something as simple as a hat, scarf or bag will carry sentiment forever. The only thing they really cost is time, which makes a finished product feel more valuable.

If you don’t want to make bulky sweaters and ill-fitted hats for people, try coasters, blankets or rugs. There are free patterns galore online.

Probably not a new hobby to take up 10 days before Christmas, though.

Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s making mustard and pickled things as gifts for her friends and family this year. Read her full bio here or say hi on Twitter @StephBolling.

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