'Tis the season to spend wisely

Making holiday gifts is a great way to save.

By Rachel Benoit

The Christmas season is fast approaching, and we all know what that means. Festive music, lights, trees, decorations, and don’t forget the presents….lots of presents. No one likes a Scrooge, but what is a college student to do if they are strapped for cash? For anyone who is lacking in funds, there is the option of the Do-It-Yourself gift. And if you’re limited budget is accompanied by a limited capacity for creativity, don’t worry. These DIY presents are heartfelt gestures that are simple to make without breaking the bank.

1. A Scrapbook

You can buy scrapbooking kits at craft stores such as Michaels and Joann’s, but most chain companies like Wal-Mart will carry them as well. For as little as $8 you can get the book, decorative background pages, photo mats, stickers, assorted embellishments… pretty much everything you need to make a decent scrapbook. If you don’t feel like leaving the house, order a kit from Amazon. Then, find pictures of whomever it is you are making the present for. That’s easy, considering that social media sites like Facebook and Instagram allow even a complete stranger to have photo access of someone’s personal life at the click of a mouse. And remember you want this gift to be personal. I recommend adding some form of memorabilia that you could stick in the book (i.e. ticket stubs, handwritten notes, ,maps) to put in your own finishing touches.

2. Personalized Coffee Mug

It’s a fact: lots of people need coffee. So the next time your loved one or friend picks up a cup, why not give them a reminder of you? This present is thoughtful, cute, but most of all, it is useful. All you need is a ceramic mug from the dollar store and a set of ceramic paint pens from any craft store. Create a design, doodle a poem or meaningful quote, and bake the mug in the oven for 30 minutes at 175 degrees. Its permanent and ready to survive the dishwasher! You can also use this idea for other ceramic items such as bowls, coasters, or dishes. 

3. Food and Drink Kits

Something as easy as food and drink kits as a Christmas gift may sound too good to be true, but I can assure they are not. Holidays are a time for celebration and weight gain. Literally any kind of store during this time of year will probably have some type of goodies for sale. All you have to do is pick your poison and you are halfway there. Overachievers will probably take the make-it-from-scratch route, where they actually make cookies or another type of baked good before wrapping them up to be presented. An easier route would be to skip the baking process altogether and just gather the ingredients together and put them into containers. If you are unsure of your culinary talents, I suggest using the fool-proof strategy of picking something up from a shop or bakery. Store-bought hot cocoa, chocolate, candy, or wine will do the trick just the same. For the final steps, dress up your choice of sweets in personalized boxes, decorative wrapping, or mason jars (don’t forget the ribbons and bows) and you have a delicious, thoughtful gift for anyone on your list.
4. Make a tie blanket

I know what you are thinking if you are someone who doesn’t know how to sew or knit; making a blanket myself is out of the question.  But hear me out.  These blankets do not require any skill whatsoever. All you need to know is how to use scissors and how to tie a knot.  You purchase two types of fleece patterns from a fabric store (such as Joann’s). Try to use two different patterns or two solid fleece blankets that compliment each other. Alternately, use a pattern on one side and a solid color on the other.   When choosing patterns, try to find one that will reflect something the person receiving the blanket likes. For instance, give someone a blanket with their favorite sports team, favorite cartoon or movie character, maybe fabric with a dog or cat pattern, etc.  Last year my sister made tie blankets for all the women in the family, and I received one with the horse pattern on the top.  It’s quite comfy and warm, especially during the cold winter months.  There are instructions for ages 8 years and up on About.com, so I’m sure it’s something a college kid can handle.  For step-by-step instructions, check our Sherri Osborn’s article (http://familycrafts.about.com/od/nosewfleeceprojects/ss/fleecetieblank.htm).

5. Gift Baskets

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Baskets can go for just a few dollars, and all you need to spruce it up is some ribbon, tinsel, garland, or even a sprig of mistletoe tied to the top.  The great thing about this present is you can take a bunch of small, affordable items which correlate to each other and turn them into a memorable gift (it is also the perfect opportunity to re-gift).  And there are a variety of themes that you could run with.   My personal favorite is a Spa Gift Basket, which allows your recipient to take a little time to pamper themselves after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  I fill the basket with foot scrub, bath salts, a nail file, cuticle sticks, a loofah sponge, a couple of bottles of nail polish and a cozy pair of slippers or fuzzy socks.  You could use gift baskets to appeal to pretty much everyone based on what you think they need.  Other examples are the Dinner and a Movie, Breakfast for Two, Winter Night In, and the Going to College gift baskets.  All of these ideas and more can be found at Roundup.com under: 20+ Inexpensive DIY Gift Basket Ideas We Love.  Check it out and start filling your own basket!