Nothing beats a DIY (do it yourself) gift around the holidays, especially if you have someone who says, “I don’t want anything” when you ask them what they want (those people are SO annoying, aren’t they?), or someone who seems to have everything they could possibly ever want or need, or when your bank account is beginning to dwindle and you have time, but not much money. These are the instances when I say step away from the store and step into your own mind and heart. Think about what might be truly meaningful to the person you are making the gift for. I’ll give you a hint: If you put a lot of thought into it your gift will likely end up costing next to nothing.
Without further ado I give you 10 Almost Free DIY Gifts:
*If you happen to have some photos of you and the person you plan to bestow a gift upon…keep them. We’ll be using them often in this list.
1. Choose an event, from the past, that you documented in photographs and turn it into a freak-show poster board or mini photo book. What makes it a freak-show? I’m about to tell you. What you are going to do is take the photos and cut the heads off. Seriously…chop away. Oh, don’t use your originals. Get some copies…just a few cents each at any copy center or photo print shop. Then you go on the hunt for old magazines and start cutting out some bodies for those heads. You can also draw the bodies on (the worst you draw the better so don’t let that stop you) or use fancy scrapbook papers too (if you have some hanging around). Then create a scene on the poster board by gluing the characters in.
I once made a book like this for my mom highlighting a family camping trip we took one year. I added speech bubbles so I could include funny “inside-jokes” or have family members being ridiculous. I cut out a tent from a magazine and had people standing around a campfire. The bodies and heads were out of proportion, or wearing super-model clothes, or even half human, half pet bodies. It was fun to read. Think of it as making your own silly comic book to curate some of your favorite memories in.
2. If you have an especially excellent photo of you and your favorite gift recipient put it in a frame (you can get one at a thrift store for cheap) and then write a beautiful letter to go with it. Tell that person, in great detail, about a moment (or moments) where what they said or did made your life better, saved you from crisis, set your soul free…or whatever it is that you have always wanted to share with them, but felt too vulnerable to actually share. For example you might write something like this:
That time you came to the hospital and sat with my mother when I couldn’t be there meant the world to me. I was so worried about her, but knowing you were there gave me so much comfort. I want you to know how much I appreciated you doing that. It was such a tough time and you restored my faith in humanity. Since then I always try to help someone when they need it and I don’t wait for them to ask. I hope you realize how much you changed the way I look at things…
Or like this:
Don’t tell the other uncles, but you have always been my favorite. You might not remember this, but when I was eight you encouraged me to face my fears and go on the big roller coaster at the local amusement park. I remember being so scared, but once I did it I felt so confident. You probably don’t realize what a big impact that moment had on me. I’m thirty years old now and whenever I feel scared about doing something I think back to that time I rode the roller coaster and it always helps me be brave…
3. Make a big list of the funniest moments or inside jokes of all time. Or a list of your favorite memories. This is especially appreciated by your oldest friends. Include when you got in trouble together or accomplished a goal. My list might include things like: 1. Remember that time on the bus when John was bullying us and you shoved him up against a window and the bus driver pretended not to notice because he was sick of John too? That was so awesome. I remember it to this day. I’ll never forget the look on Johns face. You were my hero that year because John stopped taunting me too. 2. Remember how we used to make our own Barbie clothes out of old socks and then have fashion shows? I remember that time we made your mom sit on the couch and rate each outfit from 1-10. Your mom was such a good sport. I really miss her sometimes…
4. Write a song. What? You aren’t a song writer? Don’t worry, I’m not either. All you have to do is steal one of your favorite songs and rewrite the lyrics. I did it with an REO Speedwagon Song once (what in the what is a “speedwagon” anyway?). Make sure it’s about the person you are writing it for, or just really funny so it makes them giggle. If you are super brave, record yourself singing it too and upload it to YouTube and send your friend the link. Don’t be a Scrooge, give them the url so they can share it on social media and “humble brag” about how awesome you are.
5. Make a list of people you and your gift recipient have in common. Then go around with your cell phone and take video of them answering this question: What is you favorite thing about Mr. X? (fill in the name of your friend or family member, obviously) Edit the videos and splice them together on your computer then upload them to YouTube. Send your friend the link…or burn it onto a DVD…or save it to a USB driver. It’s the fastest way to make people cry the happy tears. I promise.
6. Get them a kitten! Kittens are often free. They make nice companions. If you don’t want to get a real kitten you could always make a paper maché one! All you need is some flour, some glue, an old glass jar, some newspaper, and paint. If your neighbor gets the paper and has a recycling bin just ask him or her if you can raid it. We have even gotten some old newspapers from our local newspaper office. They were happy to part with a few stacks of old news. Paint might be pricey if you don’t happen to have it already…like I do, but craft paint is pretty cheap. Sometimes you can get it for 75 cents and with cats you really just need three colors. Think eyes (yellow or green), fur, and maybe a black to do some outlining. Hate cats? That’s OK, you can make any animal you want to. Check out my PAPER MACHÉ Pinterest board to get ideas and for paper maché paste recipes. Hint: there is even a tutorial on making a trophy animal unicorn head.
7. Using your phone’s audio or video recorder, record yourself telling the story of “how we met” or your first memory of that person (if it is a relative). These can be great stories. Don’t overlook them! If you are camera and audio shy don’t despair! You can type your story up and print it on some fancy paper. Frame it. This can be a great gift to give to your grown child or best friend. Make sure to include your thoughts and feelings surrounding the event. Sensory details always bring back the most memories. For your child you might start with something like, “The first time I held you in the hospital I remember the way your eyes opened so wide to take in all of the lights and the way your tiny, amazing hands were opening and closing on your blanket. In that moment I knew you would have me wrapped around your tiny, little finger for life and occupy a huge space in my heart until the day I died. ” For a friend you might say start with, “I was the new girl at school and I felt so lonely, but you changed all of that. The moment you waved for me to sit next to you, and we were both wearing purple and had pigtails in our hair, I knew we were going to be friends forever…”
8. Recycle some of your own stuff. I know, upscaling junk is all the rage right now, right? Why not jump on the bandwagon? Your friends and family will think you are creative, smart, and saving the planet all at the same time. Just Google or do a search on Pinterest using the terms “upscale” and “recycle” or check out a few of these sites that show you how to make mittens and hats out of an old sweater, how to turn a T-shirt into a scarf, or how to turn tin cans into colorful storage containers (for friends who need help in the organizational department…like ALL my friends if you are someone like me.) We can all use a little more reuse in our lives, right?
9. Plan a kidnapping. Ok, don’t call it that, we don’t want anyone getting arrested, but seriously, plan a day out as a gift. The gift of time spent with you will make people smile because you are fun to be around right? So plan the day. Find free things to do in your area and make a list. Pack a picnic. Do whatever you can to make it a “surprise” day. Then make an invitation with the date (or decide that together) and explain that you are kidnapping them for a day of fun. Wrap the invitation up in several boxes…you know where you start with a small box and wrap that in a bigger box and then a bigger box and so on and so on? Make it really fun to unwrap. Everyone wants a day out that has been preplanned so they don’t have to make decisions and just get to enjoy themselves…especially mothers. This is a great gift for mothers. P.S. Leave the kids at home!
10. Books. Stacks of books. I’m telling you, books are practically a dime a dozen with all of the electronic book reading gadgets available now. If you go to a thrift store they are often begging people to take the books off of their hands. I once got a bunch of art books I had been ogling at the bookstore for pennies on the dollar at a local thrift store. If someone you know has a certain interest be on the look out for books that fit that criteria. If your gift recipient loves to read fiction, I’m telling you now, when you get to the thrift store you’ll feel like you have hit the jackpot. The key with making this gift impressive is to get a big pile of books. Make a giant stack tied with a big, red ribbon or fill a big box with them. If you don’t want to bring a dolly to deliver your very heavy box-o-books just get a couple of the best books you can find. Instead of bedazzling your favorite person with the sheer number of books, open each book and bedazzle him or her with a personal message from you on the books inside cover instead. I’m telling you, there are books I’ve had for years with personal notes written in them by loved ones. They are some of my most prized possessions.
If you still need more ideas try visiting my Home Made Gifts For Any Occasion Pinterest board. There are lots of ideas for people who want to make something more personal or for those who are trying to stay within a budget.
Well, that wraps up my gift giving guide. Do you have any other almost free DIY gifts you’d like to add to the list? Leave a link in the comments.
Got a gift giving guide you want to share? Leave a link in the comments!
We need all of the help we can get when it comes to gift giving, right? I know I do.