DIY holiday gifts that can save you a ton of money


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Christmas, other holidays and birthdays have gotten so hyped and over-marketed in stores lately. I think the same gifts and merchandise available in stores just keep getting recycled and regurgitated to you year after year but upgraded or slightly different in some way. I would rather come up with a couple of unique and creative gift ideas that I can make myself.

I am sick of getting the same gifts basically every year or giving out (generally) the same gifts. Seriously, I am running out of ideas for even giving out gift cards. There is something that makes me very uncomfortable about gifting the same thing twice, or even something similar.


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All these holiday deals for low-quality items that we end up forgetting about, throw away in storage or throw away a few months later also make me feel uncomfortable buying unless it’s books. Books always make the perfect gift.

Then it dawned on me. People love original gifts that are made just for them. Think about it. Isn’t that why sites like Etsy are so popular? We are all sick of getting the same stuff from department stores or the same stupid Christmas socks, lip balm stocking stuffers and random soaps that we never end up using.

I am not about all that clutter. For me, the less clutter, the better. And I think my family and friends would say the same. I’d rather get them something they will use. That is why I wanted to come up with these creative gift ideas that we can all make ourselves and give something truly special to a family member, friend or loved one this holiday season.

1. Spa in a Jar

You can make tons of lotions, scrubs and balms with everyday, all-natural, household products like baking soda and olive oil. These are inexpensive to buy if you don’t already have them lying around in your pantry. After mixing up the items you want to include in your spa jar, seal it up with some colorful ribbon. This makes for a perfect gift idea for a sister, aunt or mother.

Here is a great recipe I have used before for a simple sugar face scrub that you can include in your spa jar.

  • 1 tsp organic cane or granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp of water
  • 1 tsp drops organic lavender essential oil
  • 1 mason jar

If you don’t feel like making all of your spa-in-a-jar products yourself, check out this post from The Gunny Sack for what to buy for your spa jar. Either way, the cost stays low for a cute gift idea.

2. Arm Knit Blanket

This has got to be one of my favorite gift ideas. Instead of buying some generic throw from your local Target or Walmart, make one yourself. This arm knit blanket is seriously SO easy to make and gives a nice clean, rustic feel to any living room or bedroom.

These arm knit blankets give me that “I am cozy next to a fire in a cabin in the woods with my homemade blanket” kind of feel. All you need is a couple of packs of the Premier Yarn Couture Jazz Yarn (depending on how big of a blanket you want to make) and 45 minutes to spare. Click here to watch the full tutorial from Simply Maggie.

3. Homemade Cranberry Infused Syrup

This easy-to-make, cranberry-infused syrup is so delicious. Whoever receives this from you will be hooked. I especially love putting some of this syrup in my morning tea or vanilla latte for an extra burst of flavor.

What you’ll need to make cranberry-infused syrup:

  • Thawed cranberries
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Funnel
  • Glass bottle with stopper
  • Ribbon, labels and colored markers or pens for finishing touches

To create the syrup, boil one part sugar and two parts water in a pot until the sugar is completely dissolved and gone. Then drop a handful of thawed cranberries into the glass bottle and use a funnel to pour in the syrup. Leave the glass bottle open to sit for about 20 minutes or until the steam stops so you don’t cloud the bottle with steam.

Put the finishing touches on your homemade syrup by sprucing up the outside of the bottle. Add a ribbon and maybe a label with some decorative calligraphy or some twine. Get creative with it!

4. DIY Terrarium Kit

You could either create a terrarium or put together a terrarium kit in a mason jar for the perfect creative and unique gift-giving idea.

What you will need for your terrarium kit: 

  • 1 mason jar
  • 1 bag of small stones
  • 1 bag of activated charcoal
  • A few inches of potting soil
  • A couple of small plants such as moss, aloe or other succulents
  • Any other small decorations such as cute fairy garden decorations
  • A couple of small ziplock bags or small containers (or you can just layer the contents in the jar to save on waste)
  • Label and twine

Layer the bottom of your mason jar with the small stones you’ve collected or purchased. Then either put together the terrarium to give to someone or fill each of the small zip lock bags or small containers with each of the items you’ve purchased or gathered for the terrarium (or leave them loose beside the soil). Then place everything into the mason jar, seal with twine and add some decorative touches by either making your own instruction card or using the printable card included above. This makes the perfect gift idea for nature lovers!

5. Brownies in a Jar

Who doesn’t love brownies?  Instead of baking brownies for someone, give them the gift of brownies in a jar. The best thing about brownies in a jar is if they don’t end up using the mix to bake brownies, they can use that same mix to make hot chocolate or a mug cake. Either layer the ingredients and place the vanilla extract in a tiny bottle attached to the jar or bag them up in mini bags and throw everything in the jar.

The supplies I have listed are a spin on what I actually include in my own brownies, which is why you will see things like almond flour instead of regular flour.

What you will need for brownies in a jar: 

  • Almond flour
  • Organic cacao powder
  • Baking powder
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • White chocolate chips
  • Organic brown sugar
  • Organic salt
  • Organic vanilla extract
  • Twine and labels

6. DIY iPhone Wallet

Sure, you could buy some cute iPhone wallet cases off Amazon. However, wouldn’t it be more fun to make it yourself? The DIY iPhone wallet may seem a bit complicated at first but if you have some sewing experience, it is quite simple. Just be sure to be accurate with your measurements and this gift creation will be a breeze.

What you will need for the iPhone wallet:

  • 1/4 yard of the fabric and pattern of your choice
  • Scraps of fabric for the flap (different pattern or color works best for the flap for contrast)
  • Magnetic purse snap
  • Inexpensive plastic case that fits your iPhone
  • Coordinating embroidery floss & needle
  • E6000 craft glue

You will need to start by measuring your fabric to your phone and cutting out the various pieces. Then attach your magnetic snaps to the inside and outside portions of your fabric. Attach the plastic case inside, and then cut out the various wallet pockets. Finish it off by cutting out the hole for the camera.

7. Mini Bar in a Jar

Alright, so this one isn’t something you can necessarily make (unless you can make some killer apple pie moonshine), but you can put it together yourself. The mini bar in a jar is by far one of the most popular creative gift ideas, and for obvious reasons.

For the mini bar in a jar, you will need one wide-mouth mason jar. Then all you have to do is fill it with a variety of airplane shot bottles. Seal it with a ribbon and any other personal touches you would like and wah-la!

8. Coffee Lover’s Survival Kit

What makes a better gift than coffee? It is more useful than most other gifts since no one lets coffee goes to waste. With the coffee lover’s survival kit, you can get your creative juices flowing. You can either include only coffee beans but several different varieties or mix it up with coffee grounds, espresso grounds, different flavors of cream and sugar and even throw in some biscotti or shortbread cookies.

What you will need for the coffee lover’s survival kit: 

  • 1 tin basket
  • Coffee or espresso
  • Cream
  • Biscotti or other snacks
  • Chunky ribbon 
  • Chalkboard labels


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Great tech holiday gifts for under $50

Great tech holiday gifts for under $50

Gift-giving is one part of the holiday season that can be both enjoyable — but also sometimes a bit stressful. It’s wonderful to find gifts that a loved one and friend will appreciate, but making sure you stick to a budget can be wonderful too. Every one of these 12 ideas come in at under $50 — some far more affordable than that — and we’re sure one of these will be perfect for someone on your holiday list.

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As a basic device, the $49.99 Lenovo Smart Clock Essential just works. Take a walk back in time and return to simple bedside devices that divulged basic details in square, blocked-off LED numbers. They’re easy to read, and deliver just enough information to get you out of bed in the morning. You can certainly set an alarm on your smartphone, and access Google Assistant from that handheld as well. But the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential brings up Google Assistant on request, and also doubles as a USB charger, small speaker and nice little alarm clock, too. It’s covered in gray fabric, giving it a nice home-like feel, too.

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Who doesn’t like to write on the wall? That’s the idea behind the Rocketbook Think Board X2, a slim sticker that is a white board-like surface allowing you to use dry erase markers and wipe the board clean each time. With a reusable backing, you can install the rectangular sheet in seconds and also reposition it where you want (that also means you can orient it anyway you want as well). With Rocketbook Beacons embedded on the Think Board X2, you can also send the image to multiple locations and people at the same time — and even broadcast it live during a meeting or class. And all of this is starting at just $12 for an 8 x 11-inch sheet and $40 for a 2 x 3-foot option.

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Amazon updated their entire line of Alexa-enabled Echo smart speakers this year with cool new designs, including the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen). The rounded, globe shape is great for sound, and you can stream music from a slew of popular services including Spotify, SiriusXM, Amazon Music and even Apple Music. Plus, of course, you can call up Alexa for assistance when needed from the smart speaker, and still tap into all the regular features you can expect including the ability to mute the microphone when you just want some privacy.

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This cute, red Flashlight Powerbank is a diminutive device — but it also doubles as a power bank for your mobile phone. On the bottom is a USB port that connects to the smartphone via a cable — and that’s also how you can recharge this flashlight battery as well. Just 5.25 x 1.25-inches in size, this is small enough to toss into a bag or even a pocket. Even better? It’s on sale for just $9.95.

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The new Chromecast immediately connects to most streaming services, from YouTube (owned by Google), Netflix and HBO Max, to Disney+ and more. It plugs into your TV’s HDMI port, and sports HDMI pass-through of Dolby audio content. It’s the first entry device to show off Google TV, a new system that is designed to help organize the way you search and find content to watch.

New to Chromecast is also a remote control, with a dedicated button for Google Assistant, meaning you can pull up shows and search via voice. And of course since you have access to the voice assistant you can use it to access other information, including devices you have installed in your home. The remote also has a dedicated button for YouTube and Netflix as well. The new Chromecast comes in three colors including snow, sky and sunrise, a deep pink, all for $49.99.

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The C by GE Wire-Free Dimmer + Color Control Smart Switch has a number of cool features. The device, a little over $20, can turn the light on and off, it can dim and brighten lights and it can also shift the color temperature from warmer tones to cooler ones, all from the switch and the app. You can also control lights from outside of a room.

But of course the main feature is you can add a smart switch and dimmer without having to re-wire. This solves a massive pain point that has been a hindrance for many who want to add smart switches to their homes. It’s a great device that creates options to put a switch anywhere they want in someone’s home, and a great option for any friend.

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Sometimes you just need to belt out a song or two wherever you are. That’s where the Karaoke Microphone Speaker comes into play, which connects to your music app or library via a Bluetooth connection, so the microphone can amplify your voice and also act as a speaker. Plus, you can recharge this $50 Karaoke device, which holds eight hours of charge, with a USB charging cable.

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If there’s one item that almost everyone has grown more comfortable using, it’s a webcam — and the $49.99 Aukey Webcam is one of our favorites. It has a small field of view, but when you’re checking in with grandparents or friends who are still some distance away, the webcam does a great job of keeping you or your loved ones in the frame — which is the most important element. You also get noise-reducing stereo microphones, a clip for attaching to your screen, an industry-standard ¼-inch screw mount for attaching to tripods and — this works with all popular video chat applications.

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The holidays typically come, for many us, during the colder weather months. And the X-Cap Light Up Hat is a great accessory that’s both practical, and has a tech edge. The $35 acrylic cap lights up, and this 120-lumen light pops out from the hat, meaning you can wash the hat. Plus this makes it easy to recharge the light itself through a USB port, giving it about four hours of use per charge.

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This stylish scale reads nine metrics and integrates with Apple Health and Google Fit. The Wyze Scale has a digital display for showing the basics, then connects to a smartphone over Bluetooth, where the Wyze apps give a more detailed look at body composition. The scale is also attractive and feels well-made, is easy to set up and use — and it’s just under $25, making it one of the most affordable gifts we can recommend this year.

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The Automatic Illuminator is one of those devices that everyone has needed at least once in their life — a light in their backpack, luggage, bag or purse. The just-under $30 LED light turns on by touching it or just by sensing motion around it. And the Automatic Illuminator doesn’t stay on for a long time, but just for a few moments, long enough to find what you’re seeing inside your bag, and not so long that it drains the battery. It should work 6,000 times before needing to replace the two AAA batteries.

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A heavy duty power bank is never a bad idea, especially one that can recharge not only your smartphone, but also several others. (Who doesn’t like to share?) The one-pound Anker PowerCore Lite 20,000mAh can actually recharge a smartphone up to five times on one charge, and it has two regular USB A ports so someone can charge their phone, and a friend’s, too. And you can get all of that for just $45.99. 

And if you’re looking for more ideas, check out our 2019 holiday tech gift ideas under $50 with ideas that are still available this year.

Also, check out The GearBrain, our smart home compatibility checker to see the other compatible products that work with smart devices.

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Featured Image Credit: Murzik Nata / iStock.