Crafty DIY gift ideas that won’t break the bank

These gift ideas are straight from the heart (and easy on your wallet).

A pile of gifts are on the floor in front of a Christmas tree. Photo: Matthias Cooper

Finding the perfect gifts for your friends and family can be hard. Plus, buying gifts is expensive, especially when you’re also trying to budget your groceries and rent. But fear not, because I have some cute (and cheap) ideas that will work flawlessly!

‘Open when’ letters

If you’re a broke university student like me, this is going to save you so much money. These are easy, practically free (unless you spring for some fancy paper and envelopes), and completely heartfelt. It’s the perfect gift for somebody close to you—I’m talking best friend, significant other, etc.

If you’ve never heard of them, the premise of ‘open when’ letters is to think of times when your giftee might want to hear from you and can’t wait. These could be times like holidays, when they get a bad grade, or even just when they want to hear a funny joke. You write your letter to be as long and fancy as you would like, then you put it in an envelope that says what the letter is about. An example would be something like “open when it’s Halloween.”


A crochet or knitted scarf

This one is a little trickier and more time-consuming, but it’s one of my go-to presents when I’m down on cash. A crochet hook and yarn do cost money, but only about $20. Crochet hooks and knitting needles are also a lifetime investment if you plan to keep this hobby up. A scarf takes about 2.5 balls of yarn, which costs around $8. Really, you won’t be breaking the bank to make your mother a scarf.

I know not all of you know how to crochet or knit, so you may be thinking, “Hasana, how could this possibly benefit me?” Well, YouTube can teach you how to do either of the two in about 20 minutes. I say this with all the love in my heart, but if you're here reading this article, you have most likely run out of options. Now may be the time to hunker down and learn something that would make every grandma proud.


Hot chocolate in a jar

This is one of my favourite gifts to make and to receive because it’s easy but tastes so good. Go to your local grocery store and pick up the ingredients to make the most amazing hot chocolate ever. I’m talking cocoa, sugar, candy canes, etc. Once you have those, buy a few jars (the dollar store always has some for cheap). Then divide the ingredients up into the jars, make them pretty and voilà, you have your present!

This is a great choice if you need gifts for a bunch of people, in which case you can buy ingredients for cheaper in bulk! You can also do the same thing with cookie ingredients for cookies in a jar.


Homemade cookies

Time to do what all adults with an oven do when they have no idea what to give their friends: make some food! This is the best time to whip out the family recipes. Like with the hot chocolate jars, this option is great for multiple gifts because you can buy the ingredients in bulk. Just make sure you plan in advance so you don’t end up making sugar cookies into the wee hours of the morning.

I would advise you to check for allergies before you give anyone food. It kind of goes without saying, but hey, we all need some friendly reminders here and there. Don’t forget to turn the oven off when you’re finished either!


Matching T-shirts

All my favourite gifts have come in the form of matching clothes. My best friend actually inspired me to add this to the list. Every year she makes us matching shirts for Christmas, and she does it on a budget! She goes to Walmart and picks up two plain shirts and fabric paper (found in the craft section or the printing section). She then finds a picture and prints it onto the fabric paper like you would a normal piece of paper. From there, she irons the pictures onto the shirts and that’s it, they’re done!

If you don’t trust yourself not to mess up the fabric paper, try picking out some cute iron-on decals. Maybe add your initials or something that has a special meaning to the both of you. If you were able to read up to this point, then I trust your ability to think of something!


I hope these ideas sparked some of the creative flow that you may have been missing. Feel free to alter these to fit your situation, and just remember that the point of the holidays is not about gifts, it’s about being with the people we love. That being said, cookies never make anything worse!