5 Budget-Friendly DIY Holiday Gift Ideas

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  • Cliches exist for a reason. Break out the rolling pin and give the gift of delicious baked goods and jams this holiday season.
  • Gift-wrap some memories by printing out great photos and putting them into a nice thrifted or handmade frame.
  • Skirt the line between form and function with decorative trivets and potted herbs.
  • Offering your time can be a great budget gift full of personal value. Offer to do an activity they love, to babysit for a date night, or even your professional skills.

Expensive gifts are rarely the most valuable.

With so much pressure to buy, buy, buy during this time of year, it's hard to stay on top of your finances. But you don't need to empty your savings account just to make your loved ones feel special during the holidays. There are all kinds of great gifts you can give that won't kill your budget or the festive mood.

1. Baked goods

Sure, baked goods are a holiday stereotype, but that doesn't make them any less awesome. Cookies, cakes, pies, fancy pastries -- pick one, or make them all in a glorious explosion of holiday deliciousness.

While your most bank-account-friendly option is usually to start from scratch, not everyone is a baker. You can buy some parts prepared and still end up with something made with love. Think premade cookie dough that you decorate yourself, or store-bought pie crust with homemade filling.

2. Framed photos

If there's one thing that's almost always a guaranteed win with grandparents, it's an adorable photo of the grandkids in a nice frame. It's also a nice gift for friends with furry family members; what goofy pooch doesn't deserve to be immortalized in print?

You can get photos printed in a surprising number of stores. Walmart typically has a photo printer, as do most Costco locations. Office supply and drug stores often print photos, as well.

For the frame, your options depend on your budget. Big-box craft stores, like Joann, often have good discounts on frames. You can also find a wide selection at most Goodwill locations. Or, if you're extra crafty, make your own frame with some wood from the hardware store.

3. Potted herbs

Flowers are nice and all, but let's be frank: They die. Fast. Instead, consider hitting your local nursery or garden center to pick up potted herbs. You can repot it into a nice (but inexpensive) pot, include a hand-made plant marker, and give a gift that won't die before the new year.

You can find inexpensive pots all over the place, starting at the home improvement store. Dollar stores also often have planters, as do discount stores like TJ Maxx. A little paint or ribbon can turn a cheap terra cotta planter into something unique.

As for the plants, your most economical option may be to buy a larger plant and divide it into multiple pots. This gives you more bang for your buck.

4. Trivets / hot pads

The unsung heroes of the dinner table, trivets and hot pads are all that stand between your vulnerable table and the molten touch of your pots, pans, and serving dishes. And they often do it while looking good, to boot. You can make these out of all sorts of materials depending on your particular interests and skills. Carve wood, work leather, or knit and crochet a beautiful addition to your friends' tables.

5. The gift of time

Don't forget that your gift doesn't always need to be a physical object. Your loved ones might enjoy receiving a gift that involves your time, instead.

Perhaps what they really want is time together, such as a day at their favorite place, or for the two of you to do an activity together. Or maybe they need time in a more practical way, like fixing things around the house, babysitting for a date night, or help with learning a new skill.

It's a little cheesy, but a "coupon" for your time can be both a thoughtful and practical gift for both parties. (The key word here is thoughtful. No matter how much they love your hugs, a "coupon" for an extra hug isn't quite what we're going for here.)

A little thought goes a long way

Anything can become an amazing gift if it's thoughtful and shows you gave real consideration to the person receiving it. A humble tin of cookies gains an extra significance when you've made their favorite kind. A few dollars' worth of dirt and seeds can be worth so much more when you remember how much they love basil. A thoughtful gift doesn't have to blow the limit on your credit card to be priceless.

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