Getting Crafty For Fun Holiday Frugality

Personal finance blogger JD Roth is on a mission to help us all save a bundle during the holidays. First he shared a ton of frugal Christmas ideas, and now he’s posted a list of 34 gifts you can make yourself. A few of our favorites include:

  • homemade truffles
  • homemade hand warmer
  • gingerbread house
  • gift of time or skill
  • personalized calendars
  • gourmet salt assortment
  • love coupons

He also lists additional sites that offer “thousands of other great Christmas crafts.” Among all of these ideas, there’s bound to be something to appeal to almost everyone, giving us the option of giving less expensive yet oftentimes more heartfelt holiday gifts.

But these ideas come with a warning as well — that in order to complete many of them, you need to get started soon. So, what are you waiting for?

A Do-It-Yourself Christmas: 34 Great Gifts You Can Make Yourself [Get Rich Slowly]

FREE MONEY FINANCE (Photo: saramarie)


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  1. trk182 says:

    My frugal holiday tip…. NOTHING! you get absolutely nothing!!!

    I save a lot of money on holidays.

    • res ipsa pasta says:

      @trk182: was that a UHF allusion? seriously, though, I save a lot of money by just not giving gifts to anyone except immediate family.

    • GuinevereRucker says:

      @trk182: I already decided that this year, I won’t be giving OR getting presents. I’m telling everyone to just donate to charity instead of buying me junk I don’t want. My wife is fine with this :)

  2. CupcakeKarate says:

    During my poorest holiday season I told my family that I hoped they liked glitter pinecone ornaments and popsicle stick picture frames because that was all I could afford.

    Seriously though, the best ever was the Christmas after I got married. We used a Pottery Barn giftcard (a wedding gift) to purchase nice frames. We put a personalized wedding photo in each one and gave those as gifts. Everyone was really pleased and we spent only what it cost to print the photos.

    • pop top says:

      @LindsayC: doctoral hilarity ensues:

      That’s exactly what my fiance and I are doing this year (it works out perfectly because we’re getting married at the beginning of December anyway). That way, we save money and everyone gets a nice wedding photo.

      I may also do some of the cool, crafty stuff as extra goodies for our parents and grandparents though. These are great links.

    • res ipsa pasta says:

      @LindsayC: doctoral hilarity ensues: Ha! I guess you have to know your audience. If someone gave me a framed wedding photo of themselves as a gift, I’d be pissed. Then again, my spouse & I never bothered to get our wedding photos printed. I am the least sentimental person I know.

      • CupcakeKarate says:

        @res ipsa pasta: We only gave them to family. So, my dad got one of me and him dancing, my mom got one with me and my husband , my parents and his parents, my brother got one of us smiling and watching him play the harp.

        I did joke that everyone got the gift of MEEEEE that year though.

  3. DreadPirate says:

    I have a large family, so my girlfriend and I typically make up gift bags full of homemade jams and jellies that we have made over the year. Because it all keeps so well, you can make the various types of jams and jellies as the ingredients come into season, saving money and avoiding the mad rush to get stuff done at the end of the year. Been doing this for a few years now, and get complements from people every year about the gift bags.

    • CupcakeKarate says:

      @DreadPirate: That’s a great idea! Where do you get your recipes?

      • DreadPirate says:

        @: doctoral hilarity ensues: LindsayC – usually either from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, or in the booklet that come with the certo we use. You can find the book on Amazon at []

        Be warned, canning is definitely a two-person job. This is mainly because there’s so much to do before the jam cools off too much to seal properly.

        • TangDrinker says:

          @DreadPirate: I second this idea and your recommendation for having 2 people work together.

          I use the book Blue Ribbon Preserves – and it’s got recipes on how to can hot fudge sauce, flavored alcohol, you name it. No one ever complains about home made jam or apple sauce!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I make duct tape wallets for many friends and family members. They are easy to make and people love them. You can make about 20 wallets out of a normal size roll of duct tape. There are many websites that have instructions. Just google it.

  5. rhinojosa says:

    I make tamales. Masa is cheap, pork is cheap, spices are cheap and with one batch you can make up to 20 dozen. Two dozen can go to each family member, friend, or co-worker and you’re set. If they’re good, you get a lot of compliments and high praise.

  6. BlondeGrlz says:

    Just be careful with those love coupons. Great Uncle Larry might be better off with some fudge.

  7. VA_White says:

    I sew therefore almost all recipients are getting something I made from fabric I already have in my stash.

  8. juri squared says:

    Faced with a 10% pay cut instead of a holiday bonus, I’ve remembered that I was a professional artist in a previous life. It’s crafting time at casa de jurijuri!

  9. Git Em SteveDave loves this guy--> says:

    Here’s a question that has to do with Holiday Gifts that is becoming a problem to me. While I love all my family/friends, I am horrible at picking out gifts.
    I had been going with gift cards, but I don’t like tying someone to one store or place(in case they have a bad experience/meal, most of my family couldn’t re-sell a gift card online b/c they don’t know how).
    I decided to go to gift Amex/Visa cards, but they’re a pain to get sometimes, cost me a fee to buy them, cost the giftee a fee if they don’t spend it right away, and become a pain when you try to use it all up. This makes me want to stop doing it.
    I want to give out cash this year. I thought about checks, but that requires people to go down to the bank and deposit it/cash it, and I’d be cutting out the middle man. I know when I was a kid, cash was a great gift. In the times were in, I think it’s nice during the holidays to have something in hand which you can do whatever you want with.
    So here is the problem. People seem to think cash is a horrible gift idea. Can anyone think of a card/insert I(or anyone else who may decide this route) could stick into the card with the cash to explain why I am going this route? I know that people put cards in their cards if they donated something in their honor. I want people to know it’s not that I didn’t have time(I make my own Christmas/New Years cards for everyone, which takes some time), I didn’t care about them(I get all my close family cards in addition to my generic holiday card), that I think it’s a chore, but I feel it’s a practical gift with very few downsides, especially given our current financial situation. Any ideas?

    • Git Em SteveDave loves this guy--> says:

      @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: BTW, here was last years card. For only 19.00 at Staples, I got 75 of these. The hardest part was trimming the hair off everyones paws to get a clean print(and yes, I used non-toxic paint).

    • Meggers says:

      @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: How about a personal note to each recipient. Like for the couples in your family/friends, write a note about how you are sending this to give them a “night out”. Sort of like telling them why you are giving them cash because you would like for them to do something special for themselves.

      • Git Em SteveDave loves this guy--> says:

        @Meggers: @res ipsa pasta: I like the idea of a personal note, but I have horrible handwriting, and if my posts aren’t an indication, I doesn’t write to well. I also see all the people I give gifts like this to in person, b/c I make a point to see EVERYONE during the holidays(mostly for the meals ;P ). So, I usually will tell them something like what you said when they open the card. The gift cards usually come in a wrapper/package, so people don’t usually open those in front of me, and I’d like to just include something explaining it.

        @MissPeacock: I actually collect Target Gift Cards, b/c it’s a free hobby. I usually put in my prescriptions, I get the card(s), put $5 on it, and then pay for part of my prescription with it. I have a pretty good collection, including this years Gift Card Camera!

        • samurailynn says:

          @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: I don’t know how much you’re planning on giving, but let’s say you’re giving $20. You could have the bank give you bundles of $1 bills, then buy some of the wrappers that they put around bundles of bills and have something cute printed on those.

    • MissPeacock says:

      @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: First of all, I could die, I like your card so much. I love kittehs! Secondly, I’ve never once received cash as a gift and thought “I can’t believe that asshole gave me CASH.” I love getting cash! I think most Wal-Marts and Targets have funny cash-holder type of cards in their card sections and I’m sure you can find Christmas-themed ones as well, and maybe even some that poke fun at your giving cash. On the other hand, if any of your friends or family members think that cash is tacky, you can forward their cash to moi.

    • res ipsa pasta says:

      @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: I think receiving cash from anyone except for maybe your grandparents is a little odd. But I agree with Meggers–why not just put a personal note? Or give the gift cards to somewhere really generic, like Target or Macys, where there’s lots of options for them to use?

    • samurailynn says:

      @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: My family doesn’t really give money as gifts, but my husband’s parent’s do. This means we usually just get a check at birthdays and Christmas with a card telling us that they care and that they hope we can do something fun with the money.

      To me, the big downside of giving money (or gift cards) is that it seems like you’re just trading cash. I mean, if my sister gives me a $20 check and I give her a $20 bill, that’s not too exciting. But, parents usually spend more on their kids than their kids spend on them, and if you’re an aunt/uncle/grandma/grandpa/whatever who is giving to all the youngsters, it’s not likely they would all be buying you a gift anyway.

      I’m sure that if you are giving them money, they won’t be disappointed. If you include a personal note then it will still seem heartfelt.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: I wouldn’t balk at this at all, cash is the best gift. Especially when certain stores have their gift card machines go down convieniently on Dec. 26th…

    • Anonymous says:

      @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>:

      My boyfriend’s grandmother used to buy plain glass ornament bulbs (they’re extremely cheap and available at craft stores like Michaels or probably places like Walmart) and push a rolled up twenty or ten into them.

      She’d tied the top with a bow and give us each one. It was a nice classy way to give a needed gift :-) I wish my family members would give cash.

    • queenofdenial says:

      @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: just put in a little note saying you are making a donation in their name to them. I hate giving gift cards as sometimes stores go out of business…

  10. CollierLibra says:

    I taught myself to knit a while back, so I’ve been able to make presents. But I do have to give a lot of lead time for the projects.

  11. howie_in_az says:

    I’m lolling at the “love coupons”, because the first thing I thought of was “I don’t love you now, but at a later date I will, so hold on to this coupon”. Another conversation was “30% OFF MY LOVE WITH THIS COUPON!”

    Oooh, and while I was typing this, “what if you go bankrupt? What’s your love coupon worth then?”

    I could go on and on.

  12. lindsey520 says:

    Yeah, my family isn’t doing Christmas gifts this year. I know some people are very giving and like to spend their hard earned money on other people, but I just prefer to spend time with them and keep my money. Selfish? Nah.

  13. Ninjanice says:

    All of the older people in my family do a Greedy Santa gift exchange. We still spoil the kids, but we don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on people that could go out and buy there own stuff…

  14. JulesNoctambule says:

    Handmade is every holiday for me — metalwork and fiber art is what I do. This year, it’s hand-forged earrings for the ladies and hand-knit hats made from hand-dyed yarn for the fellas. Looks great, costs me very little.

  15. SikataPanther says:

    For those that just want to give money, try folding the bills origami style! There are lots of tutorials on how to do this and it gives the money giving a personal touch.

    Tape your pasterpiece (lightly, don’t wat to rip the money!) to a card, or fold up a bunch of smaller bills in some fancy little way and put them in a small wrapped box, so you still get that wrapper ripping satisfaction!

    Cute, personal, and doable gift for those you don’t know what to get for.

  16. Happy Homemaker says:

    I stock up on sugar, flour, butter, and milk, before the holidays and make about 30 dozen or so cookies of all different varieties. I like to go to the Dollar Stores and get pretty shaped holiday jars and put the cookies in there. You figure if you buy the cookie supplies in October and November, except for the milk, which you buy when you’re ready to bake. The butter, sugar, and flour will last for months in advance, butter in the fridge, of course. You could even decorate the jars if you want or are creative enough. The cookies, or candies, make a great homemade gift, year after year. In fact, I make mine so much, they’re specially requested.

    • Happy Homemaker says:

      @Happy Homemaker: Sorry, I forgot to add, for teachers I like to put the cookies or candies in a coffee mug. Something Nice, tall, and deep. A lot of my daughter’s teachers always love them.

    • Etoiles says:

      @Happy Homemaker: Yeah, I bake too.

      My family’s really small — my boyfriend and I are both only children, and my dad’s family is Jewish so no Christmas there. But with the boyfriend comes an extra two sets of grandparents, and he has 5 sets of aunts & uncles, with 17 cousins, on his dad’s side…

      I figure I’ll do like you do, with containers from the dollar store, and let the bulk of my holiday spending be on the postage.

  17. Anonymous says:

    About giving money –

    My brother once said that cash is a gift card you can use anywhere.

    Also, the last time I gave out cash as gifts, I purchased inexpensive puzzle boxes that are designed to frustrate your intended recipient as they struggle to get the money out. I think it was only $5 or so for the puzzle/maze box, which isn’t much more than a card. And it’s really, really fun to see adults struggle with the box when the kids open it in minutes.

  18. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    Even better than the pie weights with the hand warmers is cherry pits. You get them from [] . You make a little sack, fill with cherry pits, sew closed at the top, and nuke it for 2-3 minutes. Smells like cherry freaking pie, makes a lovely moister heat, and retains the heat for AGES.

    They’ll also retain cold if you put them in the freezer in the summer (or for sports injuries), but they don’t smell like pie then. :D

    If you make any “warmer” things, you MUST USE ALL-COTTON FLANNEL. (Or all-natural whatever fabric.) Synthetic fibers will melt in the microwave.

    I embroidered my younger brother a bookmark for part of his birthday present, with 8-bit video game characters on it, which translate beautifully into cross stitch. He’s in college, and everyone’s totally taken with it when he has it in a textbook.

    We sometimes give people a “movie night.” This isn’t as cheap, but a blockbuster gift card, a box of microwave popcorn, and a cheapie fleece blanket comes in under $20 and people think it’s cute.

  19. HogwartsAlum says:

    You guys have a lot of great ideas! Money is tight for me this year too. My family always insists on getting me a pile of crap I don’t need but I feel bad if I have nothing to give to them. I may use some of these suggestions.

  20. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    Oh, another one: Candy Wreath. I did lots of these in college.

    –Go buy bulk candy — green starlite mints, some red cinnamon rounds, butterscotches, all in the twisted cellophane wrappers.
    –Wire coat hanger
    –Green curling ribbon

    Sit in front of the TV, bend the wire hanger into a circle, and cut 2-3″ish lengths of ribbon. Tie each candy wrapper to the wire hangar with a length of ribbon. Push them back up towards the hook as you go. You end up with a wreath with candy sticking out every which way and green ribbons. Hang it by the hook at the top of the hangar (which you can disguise with a ribbon if you like), and when the recipient wants candy, they just untwist the free end and pull the candy out. You end up with a still very pretty wreath of cellophane wrappers and green ribbons.

    I made a lot of these in college. They’re cheap but take free time, and are very popular as dorm door decorations.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @Eyebrows McGee: Okay, a few more. :D

      Re: Memory books or family cookbooks — we had a nice spiral-bound copy of a cookbook of our favorite recipes printed at for $12.15 including shipping. (It’s not quite ready for prime time or we’d consider it for gifts this year.)

      Another cookbook idea: We often give our favorite cookbook (just under $20) with favorite recipes highlighted and our notes added in the margin to newlywed couples or people moving into a new apartment. Only to people you know well, of course, and you know will appreciate your commentary. But people LOVE this, and they love already having notes about what’s good, what freezes well, where you can make substitutions.

      Food ideas: We make a very popular casserole with leftover turkey, so when we’re invited for a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal that’ll be a turkey, we’ll take a basket with the less-likely-to-have-on-hand ingredients for the casserole (apples, pineapple juice, curry) and the recipe. (Only to people we know like the casserole!)

      For many Christmas parties/dinners where we bring a hostess gift, instead of wine we bring a hearty homemade coffee cake — because who wants to get up the next morning and make breakfast?

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @Eyebrows McGee: “But people LOVE this, and they love already having notes about what’s good, what freezes well, where you can make substitutions.”

        Incidentally, I started doing this when I inherited a cookbook from a great-aunt and it had all her hand-written notes in it, and just reading the notes was almost better than cooking from the cookbook because it made me think of her. :)

  21. richcreamerybutter says:

    I may include homemade Kahlua as part of my baking gifts this year!


    I’m going to get out all of my cookbooks, take them to my parents house a few days before Christmas and say “Pick out whatever you want for breakfast and lunch, I’ll make it for you guys. Also Mom, pick out what side dish you want me to make for Christmas dinner.” I’m also going to make mulled wine for my sister, along with a box of her favorite dessert, White Trash, which is just Chex cereal, pretzels, and peanuts all covered in white chocolate.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Everyone but my parents, my husband’s parents and my two sisters get baked goods – I’ve been doing it for the past 5 year or so. I was hesitant at first because I thought people might think it wasn’t a good gift because it wasn’t a “thing” that I bought at the store, but reactions have been pretty positive (or else everyone I know is just really polite).

    Being the occasional recipient of baked goods I don’t care for, I still find that I appreciate the effort that someone took to make me something – hopefully my friends, extended family and coworkers would feel the same way.

  24. geekfather says:

    For my geek friends I’m making up a box of Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster mixers.

    I’m using cheap bottles from the craft store for the liquids (Ol’ Janx Spirit, water from the seas of Santraginus V, Zamphour, and Qualactin Hypermint extract) using food coloring and vinegar water. I’m adding in some cut up foam cubes for the cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin, an old spoon, an empty bottle for the Fallian marsh gas, a plastic novelty tooth for the the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger.

    Oh, and a bottle of olives.

    I’m printing up labels for each bottle and including the recipe card.

  25. LuvJones says:

    My kids are getting their very own diamond starter kits…bags of coal!

    Bah Humbug!

  26. Ubik2501 says:

    I’ll be buying some store-bought gifts for my family and friends this year, but I’m also homebrewing a spiced Scotch ale and giving out 22 oz. bomber bottles to everybody on my list. As long as it turns out well, it should be a nice treat for everybody.

  27. FatLynn says:

    Homemade vodka infusions!

  28. morganlh85 says:

    My frugal tip; come up with some excuse not to visit your friends/relatives until the day after Christmas, or better yet, New Year’s, then run out and get their gifts at those ridiculous after-xmas clearance prices.

    Or plan ahead and get next year’s gifts, decorations, etc. after xmas this year.