7 DIY Holiday Gifts Your Friends and Family Will Love

7 DIY Holiday Gifts that Your Family and Friends Will Love | #DIY #ChristmasGifts Editor’s Note: Tanya from Eat Laugh Purr is sharing some easy and affordable homemade gifts for the holidays with us. If you’d like to guest post at The Heavy Purse, please review my Guest Posting Policy and contact me.

Christmas is my favorite holiday. While I don’t love the big crowds at the mall, I love hunting for the perfect gift for my loved ones, then carefully wrapping each present with glossy wrapping paper and big bows. I’ll even admit to dancing to Christmas music while I bake all sorts of yummy holiday treats. And while it may seem odd to talk about the holidays when it’s a beautiful 80 degrees in sunny Los Angeles, it takes a lot of time, money and effort to create a magical Christmas. Or does it?

It definitely takes a bit of time and effort, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to make Christmas special, even though retailers and advertisers work hard to convince us otherwise. For years, I bought into the hype. While I didn’t create debt buying gifts, I also spent mindlessly or bought gifts designed to remind the recipient how totally awesome I was for buying them such an obviously amazing gift.

I never said I was perfect.

The truth is most of us have done or bought things to impress others at some point in our lives. And while I’m not proud of my old gift-giving mindset, I’m also grateful that I have outgrown it and now follow the golden rule of gift-giving.

The Golden Rule of Gift-Giving

The gifts that I value the most are the ones the demonstrate how well the giver knows me and has nothing to do with the actual price tag. When it comes to buying or making your gifts this year (and year-round), always follow the golden rule of gift-giving: It’s not how much money you spend, but how much love and thought went into your gift that makes it valuable. Do this and every gift you give will be received with joy.

7 Low Cost and Inventive DIY Holiday Gifts

There was a time when homemade gifts were seen as a bit tacky. But thanks to the popularity of Etsy and Pinterest, well-made and thoughtful DIY presents are now highly covetable. They can, however, be time-consuming to make, which is why you need to start planning now.

1. Calendar with Personal Photos

I know. I know. You’re thinking who uses an old-fashioned calendar these days? And you’re right. It is old-fashioned, but there is a generation that still uses them: grandparents. While certainly there are some techno-savvy grandparents who have ditched them, many have not. This is a great gift for them, especially if they don’t live nearby. They would be thrilled to receive a calendar full of pictures of their grandkids.

I found a template using Word for those who want to keep it ultra simple and cheap. I would recommend that you use paper meant to print photos for higher-quality pages. Also, it will use a fair amount of ink, and may require a new ink cartridge, so keep that in mind when budgeting. Shutterfly, Vistaprint and Walgreens are other options if you want to have them professionally done. Shutterfly and Vistaprint regularly offer coupons or have sales, which can help lower the cost too.

2. Homemade Vanilla

I use a lot of vanilla for my food blog and the good stuff is like liquid gold. But it’s easy to make a DIY version for you and the bakers in your life. Get ready for a super hard recipe: vodka and vanilla beans. Yup, that’s all you need. For directions, go here. Please note: it takes at least two months to flavor the vodka, so start now if you plan to gift homemade vanilla this year. Make it extra special by including a favorite recipe using vanilla.

3. Homemade Spice Blends

This is a great gift for the man (or woman) in your life who loves to grill. You could, of course, buy them a nice set of spices, but it’s more fun to make a mixture yourself with recognizable ingredients. Here’s a Cowboy Spice Mix for steak, Chicken Spice Rub and an all-purpose BBQ Rub that looks amazing. You can find a ton of homemade spice rubs, mixes and blends on Pinterest to suit your needs.

4. Crotchet or Knit Scarves

My Mom crotchets and sews beautifully, but unfortunately it is a skill set that I lack. Having been the recipient of a gorgeous crotched scarf, I can tell you that if you have the skills to do this, your friends and family will thank you profusely Christmas morning.

5. Homemade Bath Salts

Do you have someone on your list that would relish a long, luxurious soak in their bathtub? Then a bottle of homemade bath salts is the perfect gift for them. It couldn’t be easier as it’s just a combination of epsom salt, baking soda, kosher salt, essential oil and food coloring (optional). The Idea Room has the recipe and some other great scrub/salt recipes at the bottom of the post too.

6. Baked Goods and Candy

Homemade treats taste so much better than store-bought treats, so unless you’re making fruitcake, these are very well-received gifts, especially if you make their favorite treat. This can be time-consuming, so it’s best to plan ahead and pick items you can make in advance and freeze or have a longer shelf-life. Otherwise, it can be a bit of a nightmare and suddenly make the crowded mall seem appealing. I find cookies, breads and fudge freeze well. Homemade jams and jellies make great gifts too.

Savings Tip: If you need to ship your baked goods, think about what items transport well with minimal packing. Cookies are delicate and break easily, so they require more packing to protect them, which increases the weight and cost. Caramels, fudge, nuts and popcorn transport well, although fudge is oddly enough a bit heavy.

7. Homemade Beef Jerky

This may seem like an unusual option, but that’s what makes it fun! Plus, you again have control over the ingredients and don’t need a PhD to understand what’s in your food. Against All Grain’s recipe earned raves and can either be made with a dehydrator or in the oven.

I’m Making My List and Checking It Twice

One of the best things about making homemade gifts is that you can truly tailor them to fit the recipient, which isn’t always possible with store-bought gifts. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to round-out these gifts with some special add-ons if your budget permits. Giving bath salts, then pair it with a complementary-scented candle. Add a nice set of grilling tools alongside your homemade spice blend or a cookie sheet with your bottle of DIY vanilla. These gifts may take a little bit of time and effort to make, but that’s what also makes them special.

What’s the best homemade gift you’ve received? What’s the worst? Are you planning to DIY any presents this year?

TanyaTanya is a freelance writer, web designer and blogger. You can find her at Eat Laugh Purr where she and her ginger tabby, Max, enjoy simple pleasures every day and at TV Fanatic reviewing Madam Secretary and more. Connect with Tanya on twitter and Pinterest. And please, no judgement on the number of cat pins I have.
September 24, 2014  •  33 Comments  •  Christmas

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  1. Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
    I've done the baked goods and scarves (although with the price of wool it can be not too cheap). My sister did Branston pickle and relishes. I like the idea of the rub spice mix and vanilla. My MIL still puts up her calendar from the 1990's with the pictures of the kids that we gave her. Of course all the dates are wrong but she just likes to see it hanging on her wall. I should really make a new one, but they're all in their 20's and 30's now. Maybe just 12 months of my grandson, her great-grandson! ;-)
    • Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
      Nom. Nom. I love homemade pickles, another great option for a DIY gift. Since a lot of people don't cook these days, they really treasure any homemade treat they get. You can't beat homemade vanilla and it's so expensive at the store too. I like making my own spice blends because then you can modify it to your tastes. It's definitely true that some DIY gifts can get pricy if the materials aren't cheap. I bet your MIL would love a calendar of her grandson!
  2. Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
    My wife is big into the baked goods, plus she enjoys baking - so it's win win :)
    • Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
      It's a huge win-win, Glen! Honestly, I can't say that I love baking, but I know my family likes receiving holiday treats. And okay, I kinda like nibbling on them too. I have to taste test, you know! LOL!
  3. Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
    I'm all about photo gifts! Calendars, mugs, etc! Vistaprint is very reasonable and easy to use for this. I also love giving homemade baked goods--especially banana breads. I have mini loaf pans so I can make cute little loaves and tie ribbons around them. These are prefect gifts for friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Thanks for all the ideas!
    • Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
      Banana bread is such a great holiday treat. And it's so cute with the ribbon tied around it. It freezes really good too, which is nice. Vistaprint really does have great prices and it's easy to use too. I think grandparents, in particular, enjoy having the mugs, mouse pads and calendars with photos of their grandkid on them. And my grandparents don't really "need" anything so they tend to prefer those sentimental, yet useful, type of presents.
  4. Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
    This is a great list!! I love DIY gifts for Christmas, not only because they are cheaper but because they actually mean something. My hubby makes homemade marinara and pesto sauce for friends and family so they get a red and a green jar from us. We have been doing this for 8+ years and everyone always looks forward to their sauce during the holidays.
    • Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
      I love that idea of a red and green sauce as a gift, Shannon! Who doesn't love a great marinara and pesto sauce? I know I do. Nom. Nom. Nom. One year my grandparents gave everyone jars of homemade apple butter and we went wild for them. It was one of those a-ha moments where I realized a simple gift of apple butter was better than some of the more expensive gifts I received that year.
  5. Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
    This is a great list Tanya! We like to do DIY gifts as much as we can. Most of the people we're giving to already have plenty so we find a DIY gift is more unique and something that actually get value out of. The added benefit is we sometimes get to involve the kids in it as well which they love to do.
    • Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
      Thanks, John! I'm in the same place where many of my friends and family don't "need" something and these are the types of gifts they want. And involving the kids is a great idea and makes the gift even more meaningful.
  6. Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
    Great ideas and so much more personable! Thanks for including our spice rub in your suggestions!
    • Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
      You're welcome! And thank you for sharing the rub with us in the first place. I can't wait to try it!
  7. Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
    For me, I like to make goodies and treats for my family. I think that's my favorite on this list! I know I love it when I receive sweets, too - nothing better! And it's definitely not about the price tag.
    • Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
      I love receiving homemade treats too, although my waistline doesn't. :) Okay, that's a lie - it's totally loves it! My pants don't love it! LOL! We get caught up in competing or matching the cost of gifts and miss the point behind gift-giving. It makes so much more enjoyable now that I don't play those games any longer.
  8. Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
    What a fun list with creative ideas! I am planning to make flax seed heating bags out of jeans this year! I've saved a bunch of the kids old jeans, have lavender oil, now I just need the flax seeds! I love the calendar a friend sent us. She moved across the country so it's good to still see their faces!
    • Thursday, September 25th, 2014
      Thanks, Jayleen! That sounds like a wonderful gift. I love how creative everyone is with their gift-giving. I think one of the best things about photo calendars or any gifts with photos is how good it makes you feel when you see their smiling faces.
  9. Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
    I love Christmas baking too, and you *must* have the holiday music to go along with the baking; it's a Christmas requirement :)

    That's a great idea about the homemade vanilla! Hmmmm, ideas, ideas, ideas... ;)
    • Thursday, September 25th, 2014
      It really is, although I resisted it for many years. :) But now I boogie on down to it! The homemade vanilla couldn't be easier to make and those bakers in your life will love it.
  10. Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
    I love when people give me baked good, however, my ass doesn't like them as much. :) I'm thinking I might try to write my parents a song on ukulele. That would certainly be a challenge for me!
    • Thursday, September 25th, 2014
      LOL! That might be my problem, Tonya. My ass just doesn't care! :) I love your idea of writing a song for your parents. I'm working on something similar, although not a song, for my parents. I want to write a poem and have some ideas but need to get pen to paper. Christmas will be here soon!
  11. Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
    #1 is a BIG winner. My wife made my Mom a personalized calendar with birthdays marked and collages/pics for each month. It was a hit! She made one for us as well - customized for us of course. The one for my Mom was half-price on shutterfly and ours was free (just had to pay shipping). Shutterfly has incredible deals if you get their emails. We got my grandpa a mug too and he cried when he opened it. He also bawled (supposedly) when he dropped it recently. We ordered him a duplicate - he doesn't know the designs are saved, not sure he has ever used the internet - so he'll get a brand new one next time we see him. Mugs, calendars, anything personalized family will LOVE.
    • Thursday, September 25th, 2014
      I love how your wife customized the calendar with special dates. I'm notorious for forgetting birthdays and that would be a huge help for someone like me. I can see why your family loves them. Shutterfly has some awesome deals. They tend to be the more expensive option if you're paying full-price butthey run specials all the time. Awwww ... I love your Grandpa story and he'll cry again when he gets his new mug. And I don't think my Grandpa or Grandma have ever used the internet either. :)
  12. Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
    We give the grandparents photos in some form every year, and it's always a hit. We will probably do baked goods for teachers this year as well since I have no sewing or crafting skills.
    • Thursday, September 25th, 2014
      Photo gifts are definitely the way to go with grandparents. They love them. I don't have any sewing or crafting skills either. Sadly two skill sets that passed me by!
  13. Thursday, September 25th, 2014
    Tanya, I am SO excited about this post!!! LOVE the new and inventive ideas here!!! I've been trying to think of ways to give awesome homemade gifts this winter, and now I'm all hooked up! Thank you, my friend. :-)
    • Thursday, September 25th, 2014
      You're welcome, Laurie! There are so many awesome DIY gifts you can make these days that top a lot of store-bought gifts. I'm glad I could help!
  14. Thursday, September 25th, 2014
    I have bought almost all of these things for my mother-in-law! She loves anything with the kid's picture on it!
    • Thursday, September 25th, 2014
      Grandparents just eat up anything with their grandkids pictures on it. It's an easy win!
  15. Thursday, September 25th, 2014
    I'm all about gifts I can eat. Bonus points if it's actually healthy.
    • Thursday, September 25th, 2014
      My friends and family go for the fattening treats but that's what is so great about DIY. You can change it up for those friends who are more health conscious. I'd do a bag of your favorite dried fruit or some granola bars or energy bites.
  16. Thursday, September 25th, 2014
    Ooh I like the homemade spice blend. I've used delicious BBQ rub recipes that I know my family will like. Great ideas.
    • Thursday, September 25th, 2014
      Go for it, Aldo! I bet your family would love a bottle of your home BBQ rub. Include your favorite recipe to use it in to add an extra personal touch.
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