Table of contents
- Encourage Those Around You, Especially the Kids
- DIY Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank
Not everyone has the spare cash to buy the special gifts that we want for our loved ones. To top it off, many have large family gatherings on Christmas day and you simply can’t have presents for some and not for the others! And once you divide your Christmas gift budget out among the number of people you need to buy for, one generally ends up with an amount which limits you to potentially purchasing something that the receiver won’t really enjoy.
And at the same time, it isn’t always about the money. Often, we just don’t find something out there that we truly believe the receiver will love. Other times it’s hard to be sure they don’t already have the thing that you want to get them. However, should you choose a DIY idea, chances are you can gift something fun, unique and special to the receiver, without blowing the budget. Never mind that our presence in the lives of loved ones is the most treasured gift of all, and anything you make for them will have a little part of you in it.
Encourage Those Around You, Especially the Kids
For me, it’s not only about the person receiving the gift. It’s also about the pleasure of making something. I generally find shopping quite stressful. Especially when you add the fact of needing to stick to a budget. Added to that is the risk of spending hours looking through stores, with a looming due date, and in the end either coming away empty handed. Or with a gift that doesn’t quite make the cut.
Whereas, a DIY style gift, even if not made 100% from scratch, can be fun and immensely rewarding. Even if it is time-consuming, I found that I never felt like it was wasted time. Most of the time, I am not only enjoying myself, but also learning new things! To add to all of this, when you create something, it helps one become more conscious of the ingredients and energy that goes into the “things” in our lives. At the same time as giving us a greater appreciation for them.
DIY Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank
DIY Sharpie Dinnerware
I am going to go right ahead and start with one of my favourite ideas on the list. Did you know that if you use a permanent marker (or porcelain pen if you have one) to draw on clean dinnerware and then bake it, your design will stay permanently? Firstly, you need to make sure the dinnerware is properly cleaned and dry, and that it is oven safe. Secondly, light colour cups and plates are advised so that your markings actually show up. Once all of that is in order, you just need to pop the item or items in the oven while still cold and set it to heat to about 180°C. After about 30 minutes your markings should be baked in. Just a heads up, like most printed crockery, the design may come off or be damaged in a dishwasher.
I discovered this amazing trick thanks to a Pinterest post.
A truly Christmas style gift is a snow globe. And one that we don’t see in South Africa that often. Although I tend to prefer less ornamental gifts, I have a snow globe at home and actually find it meditative to sit and watch after giving it a bit of a shake. So in my opinion, this great DIY gift serves a priceless purpose.
Once you think of the idea, you also start to realise how simple it is to make one. You just need some easy to get and affordable items. Here is a quick guide to making your own snow globe:
- Pick a glass bottle with lid. It can be almost any shape, bearing in mind that it will be sitting on its lid when finished so you don’t want the top of the bottle to be too skinny.
- Sandpaper the underside of the lid. Then use a water proof epoxy to glue figurines of your choice to the underside of the lid.
- Partially fill the jar with water. First, make sure to leave enough space to be able to place the figurines in and still have a bit of empty space for an air bubble once the jar is sealed. Secondly, filtered water is recommended. You don’t know what is in your tap water and unfiltered water has the potential to cloud or change colour over time.
- Add something like glycerin to the water to give it a more gel like appearance. You will only want a drop or two. This will also help keep your glittery snow suspended in the liquid for longer.
- Add your glitter to the liquid.
- Once your epoxy has had enough time to properly bond and dry, you can skrew the lid back onto your jar and tip it upside down.
Homemade Air Fresheners
I for one am a sucker for lovely scents. And I find that even those that don’t necessarily always notice it, are still subconsciously affected by a lovely aroma. However, the simple truth is that many air fresheners sold on the shelves contain chemicals that we should not be exposed to, at all if possible, but especially not on a constant basis. Aside from this, many people these days suffer from certain allergies and therefore are limited to what commercial products they can use.
A great bonus to this DIY gift is that essential oils are used to create the fragrance in a room spray. And essential oils provide so many benefits! Most that have used them for the first time, whether topically or inhaled, have been surprised at the wonderful effects.
Just be aware that alcohol is usually needed. The best is usually the highest percentage of vodka you can find. Otherwise, use pure vanilla extract as an alternative. Although it will add a slight vanilla aroma. Once you have your desired ingredients, all you have to do is mix them all together, shake and transfer to a spray bottle.
Here is a rough guideline on ingredient ratios:
- 3/4 cup water
- 3 tablespoons of either alcohol or vanilla extract
- 10-20 drops of essential oil
So, while being something very fast, easy and affordable to make, you can also gift something personalised. All you need to do is find out what scents the person prefers and use an essential oil with that fragrance. Or alternatively research an oil that you believe could improve their state. For example, if you know someone who regularly experiences anxiety, try lavender, or even some valerian.
Make a Bow Tie from Scratch
Now who doesn’t love a bow tie? I have often thought girls look super cute with bow ties as well, although traditionally this is one for the boys. And boys (by that I mean the grown up ones too) are notoriously tricky to buy presents for. One can only gift biltong and beer for so many years in a row.
Here is a great tutorial on how to make a bow tie. You just need about 30 cm of the fabric of your choice, along with the same amount of something a bit stiffer, such as what is used in the cuffs and collars of shirts.
Personalised Apron Made from Scratch
Another funky home sewn idea which you can personalise with any fun message or picture. Here is a great tutorial for making an apron, although once you have the idea you can follow any apron pattern, most are quite easy. Plus, you can use almost any fabric of your choice, although 100% cotton would be my recommendation.
This great DIY gift idea is going to take a little longer than some others, but is a fabulous idea that allows you to give something really special. Just so you know, I don’t include how to make the clock mechanism itself. You can either acquire clock parts from broken clocks or even purchase a cheapo somewhere to dismantle and use.
You will need:
- Clock parts, either stolen from another clock or bought at a craft shop.
- The backing. It can either be out of wood or a hard plastic (recycled suggestions would be an old wooden chopping board or maybe an old record or plate). Traditionally a clock shape is round, but of course, you can pick your preferred shape and size.
- Background image or photo (large enough to cover the size of your backing).
- Some mod podge (an all in one glue and sealer, commonly used in papier-mache) and a paintbrush or sponge.
- Drill a hole in the center of the backing, large enough for the clock pieces to fit through.
- Cut your image or photo so that it fits on the top of the backing.
- Mod Podge the image to the backing. Once dry, you can use a nail file to file down the edges. Then punch a hole through the center of the photo, where the pre-drilled hole matches up.
- Then you can attached your clock parts and voila!
Gifts Cards for Small Treats and Favours throughout the Year
This gift can be for someone a bit closer to you. But may be the best gift of all the DIY ideas on this list. Since not only is it your time and love that you are essentially gifting, it is also something that can be cashed whenever the receiver chooses, so basically, whenever they truly feel they need it.
So the idea is, spend some time making pretty cards, whether handwritten or designed on the PC and printed. And on each card write either something that you will give them or do for them. In essence, they are like gift vouchers. The items can be anything from a foot massage to a home cooked meal of their choice. Or even, if among siblings, for example, one could be doing a household chore in the others stead.
Depending on the giver and receiver, you may just want to add in some terms and conditions. Such as a validity period. Or even, “not redeemable when I have the flu”!
Life is busy. And even as someone who is on a computer a lot of the time, there is nothing like good old pen and paper for me. I have many notes saved on various task management systems and of course a calendar on my computer and phone. But sometimes my PC is off, and sometimes I don’t want to look at my phone. Yet still, there is often the need to do a quick check on the calendar for something. And having one up on your wall or fridge with personalised images on each month could actually make a positive difference to life.
It’s also a great way for someone to have, for example, photos of loved ones around them, and on something that they are likely to regularly look at and be reminded by. Plus, they could keep record of extra special days, such as birthdays or anniversaries, in a more accessible and “real” form.
Your DIY calendar gift also doesn’t have to be done on the computer. And regardless of if it is printed or done by hand, if budget allows, you could also laminate the pages and gift a white board marker alongside the calendar. Making it an even more useful gift. So it might seem like a boring or antiquated present, but if the images are chosen well and the layout is user friendly. A calendar could be something the receiver can appreciate throughout the entire year.
I couldn’t help but add this option to the list. Because not only have scented candles made a serious comeback in recent years, but load shedding has also become a very real and constant reality that South Africans have learned to live with. That beautiful “display” candle that you gift could save someone a fair amount of hassle on one unplanned evening in the very near future!
Candle making is a little more involved than some other DIY gift options. However, there is no reason why you can’t make a few and either keep them for yourself, or gift a few candles, simply personalising each one. You can use different scents or even add some light carving to anyone of them.
A few different waxes can be used for candle making. Paraffin wax is the fastest and probably cheapest, however if you have the time and budget I would recommend beeswax. Although should you opt for a natural option such as beeswax or soy wax, you will need to make your candles a couple of weeks in advance. Here is an easy to follow guide on making candles at home. Which, by the way, is also a fun activity to do with family or friends.
I have left this one for last as it is in reality the most complicated and time consuming one of them all. However, the results are so worth it! In fact, many have said that of many DIY gift ideas, soap making has one of the best effort-to-reward ratios.
There is quite a process involved. So plan to either make extra for yourself or gift your homemade soap to everyone as a present for Christmas. You will also need to bear in mind the aspects of working with lye. Lye is a caustic salt, or sodium hydroxide. It mostly comes in crystalline form and if handled incorrectly can burn skin and eyes. So you will need to use protective gear for hands, arms and eyes. And be sure to work in a well ventilated area. Plus, take note that any items that have contact with lye cannot be used for cooking much else afterwards.
Although should you be worried about handling the lye, you can also try get your hands on some melt and pour soap and make your soap that way. There is still lye involved, however it will already be safely contained within the pre prepared melt and pour soap mixture.