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Great Home-Made Gifts on a Tight Budget

"It is better to give than to receive."

Whoever wrote that was clearly not paying for college. What they said still rings true - giving gifts is just as fun as receiving them. But you don't have to break the bank to gift thoughtful, meaningful, and useful gifts to those that you love! With a little time and effort, you can make them a gift that will tell them just how much you care!

This year, amidst economic turmoil and tuition bills, I'm going to have to get creative with my gift-giving. Here, I've compiled some great ideas for Great Gifts on a College Budget!

This postcard-themed throw pillow is functional and fashionable!

This postcard-themed throw pillow is functional and fashionable!

Handwritten Pillows

This was inspired by a craft I saw on Pinterest. It is quite possibly the simplest and most classy gift for a home that you can make yourself!

Throw Pillow (any size)
Fabric Marker

If you have an old throw pillow laying around the house, or you can find them at an inexpensive price (my advice is to try stores like TJ Maxx!) you can use a pre-made pillow. You can also make your own pillow with a thick fabric and some batting. (To make my pillows, I recycled old pillows that my mom didn't want anymore and transferred the thick stuffing to my homemade pillows.)

To decorate the pillows, you can write on them or draw on them, or trace something! I used a ruler to make sure that my handwriting was straight. Ideas include quotes, Bible verses, a collection of words or phrases, a name, a simple design, etc.

This gift is great for practically anyone with a couch!

Marble Magnets - the perfect gift for just about anyone!

Marble Magnets - the perfect gift for just about anyone!

Marble Magnets

These magnets are perfect for anyone! They are easy and fun to make, and easy and fun to use! You can personalize them, make them match - whatever you want!!

Old Magazines
Clear-drying glue
Small round magnets
Flat-bottomed, clear marbles

Cut out small circular shapes from the magazines - try things like letters, vibrant colors, small pictures. Paint a thin coat of glue on top of the small cut-out and stick it to the flat bottom of the marble. After it has dried, glue the circular magnet to the back and voila!

I like to make matching sets - I'll choose a color scheme for each person, and write their name in large letters. Hint: Wrap them up by sticking the set into a small box or an Altoids tin!

These cinnamon stick candles look beautiful and smell even better!

These cinnamon stick candles look beautiful and smell even better!

Cinnamon Stick Candle Holders

These cinnamon stick candle holders are the perfect gifts for grandmas, aunts, and moms. They smell delicious and they look beautiful - and the best part is they are easy to make!

Hot Glue gun
Cinnamon Sticks
Glass Votive (candle is optional!)

Hot-glue the cinnamon sticks around the outside of the glass votive, directly onto the glass. Make sure that they are aligned at the bottom, because a bumpy edge will equal a tilted candle. One the outside of the votive is covered, tie a simple ribbon around the cinnamon sticks.

These bookends retail for $22 - but you can make your own for free!

These bookends retail for $22 - but you can make your own for free!

Vinyl Record Bookends

These vinyl record bookends are cool, easy, AND retro!

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Old record
Block of wood
Boiling water
Glass cake pan

To make these unique bookends, take those old records off the shelf! Any records that are scratched or not listened to anymore are perfect candidates for this craft!

Boil about a cup of water, and pour it into the flat-bottomed glass cake pan. Now, dip about one-fourth of the record into the boiling water. The vinyl should bend easily once it begins to heat up. You can use the block of wood to flatten out the record if it gets wavy, and the best part is - if you mess up, you can just dip it again and start over!

These record bookends are great for music enthusiasts or friends with large book collections! The best part is that you can find bookends exactly like this in stores for $20 or more, but you can make yours for free!

Give these potholder glasses cases to friends for a fashionable way to protect their frames!

Give these potholder glasses cases to friends for a fashionable way to protect their frames!

Potholder Glasses Case

If you have a friend or family member on your list who wears glasses - this gift is funky and practical!

Quilted potholder
Needle and thread

This is one of the easiest gifts you can make - just fold the potholder in half and sew the open edges shut. Ta-da! It's an eyeglass case!
The larger the potholder, the bigger the eyeglass case can be! If you can find a potholder big enough, you could fit sunglasses inside!

These recycled crayons are perfect for kids!

These recycled crayons are perfect for kids!

Muffin Tin Crayons

If you need a present that will satisfy the younger crowd - look no further!

Old, broken crayons (peel the paper wrapping off)
Muffin tin (A Mini-Muffin tin works best!)

Simply place the broken crayon pieces into the spaces in a muffin tin, and pop them in the oven (Preheated to 275 degrees) for a few minutes until melted (this only takes about 5 or 6 minutes - don't OVER-heat the crayons!) and then pop them into the freezer to cool. You can get creative with glow-in-the-dark crayons or sparkly crayons, but make sure you don't throw in too many crayon pieces at once, or all you'll end up with is a brown mess!

I like to stick to one color at a time, and use all the yellow crayon pieces together, all the blue crayon pieces together, etc... Another great idea is to use shaped tins - I've seen tins at Ikea that produce heart or flower-shaped muffins, and these would make great crayons as well!

Hint: These look wonderful if you package them as a small stack, wrapped in plastic and tied at the top!

This denim iPod cover is perfect for your brothers, cousins, and boyfriends!

This denim iPod cover is perfect for your brothers, cousins, and boyfriends!

Recycled Jeans iPod Cover

Guys are usually hard to shop for, much less MAKE gifts for. This iPod cover made out of old jeans is the perfect way to recycle old clothes and come up with a fun way to protect the iPod of your brothers, cousins, nd boyfriends.

Old pair of jeans
Needle and thread

Cut out a rectangle of fabric (I think it looks best if you chop out the brand label and stick it on top, but if you don't like the way it looks (or you're ashamed of owning non-name-brand jeans - we won't judge!) you can take a chunk of denim from anywhere in the pants!) that is slightly larger than an iPod. Now, use that rectangle to cut another rectangle of the same size. Remember to sew it inside out! Sew the open edges shut, leaving one narrow end open to slide the iPod in, and then flip it inside out and you've got the perfect iPod cover for the important men in your life!

These handmade map coasters would look great on Dad's coffee table!

These handmade map coasters would look great on Dad's coffee table!

Personalized Coasters

These easy, personalized coasters make the perfect handmade gift for anyone on your list - especially those hard-to-shop-for people, like Dad's and Grandpa's. They require only a few simple, easy-to-find supplies and can be finished in less than an hour!

Cork (Pre-cut circles work the best, or you can cut your own!)
Xacto Knife
Mod Podge (Regular glue will work, but won't be as shiny or protected)
Thick paint brush
Interesting paper

Cut out your coasters using an Xacto knife, or use pre-cut coaster circles. Trace the circle onto your decorative paper. Cut out with scissors, and then glue it on top of the cork. Then, apply a thick layer of mod podge to the top. Don't forget to make sure the edges of the paper are sealed down to prevent peeling!

You can use old maps, scrapbook paper, magazine ads, or newspaper articles for your coaster tops, or even print out personal photos to make it really personal!

All your wino friends will love these cute placecard holders!

All your wino friends will love these cute placecard holders!

Wine Cork Placecard Holders

These wine cork placecard holders are great and creative gifts for friends and family! They make a great gift for the home, especially for those friends who love to host parties and love to drink wine!

Natural wine corks (a set of at least four - they do not need to be the same cork, try some variety!)
Xacto Knife

First, decide what side you want to face outward. Typically, that would be the side with the writing on it. Sand the bottom of the cork until it is flat (you don't want them to roll all over the table!) by rubbing the bottom along the sidewalk until it is most flat, and then sanding it smooth with sandpaper.

Use an Xacto knife to score a line across the top of the cork. This can be dangerous, so be very careful! The Xacto knife will probably not cut through completely the first time - just keep slicing across in a straight line until it is deep enough. Also - keep in mind that your cut must be straight up and down - a placecard will not stay in a tilted cut as well. Test the slit with a credit card or other plastic card to make sure the cut is clean.

Tip: Make sure you don't use very heavy paper as a placecard - the cork is not strong enough and it will probably tip if it is too top-heavy.

Peppermint bark is yummy - and it's the easiest food gift to make for just about anyone!

Peppermint bark is yummy - and it's the easiest food gift to make for just about anyone!

Peppermint Bark

All hail the holiest (and tastiest!) of Christmas treats - Peppermint bark. Not only does it turn out tasting heavenly, but it's very pretty, too! It also makes a great gift for coworkers, neighbors, or people that you don't know terribly well, but still feel compelled to get a gift for!

It is simple to make, and if you place the bark in a tin wrapped in red and green ribbon, you've got a gift fit for a queen!

We used Paula Deen's Peppermint Bark recipe:


  • Crushed candy canes, to yield 1 cup
  • 2 pounds white chocolate
  • Peppermint flavorings, optional


Place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4-inch chunks or smaller. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Combine candy cane chunks with chocolate (add peppermint flavoring at this point if desired.) Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle.)

These trivets are useful AND cute!

These trivets are useful AND cute!

Ceramic Trivets

Looking for a gift for mom, grandma, or an aunt that is tough to please? A set of matching trivets is perfect - it's personal and functional at the same time.

All you need are tiles. Match them to your grandma's kitchen curtains or to the plates that your mom always uses - it's up to you. You can purchase individual tiles at any hardware store - look for cheaper ones, and the flatter, the better. Then, use the tile to trace a square of the same size onto a sheet of felt. Cut it out, hot glue it to the bottom - and you're set!!

Wrap them carefully - Because there is felt on the bottom, they should not scratch, but watch the edges. I stacked mine and tied them up with a big bow. As an added bonus, you can use smaller tiles that match to create a set of coasters!


laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on February 19, 2014:

Thanks, @CrisSp - I made the coasters this Christmas for my sister and her husband as a housewarming gift, and they actually turned out really nicely! They aren't that hard to made, so I hope yours go well :)

Thanks for the kind feedback!

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on February 16, 2014:

I landed in this hub while looking for some personalized gift ideas. This is awesome! Love the ideas specially the coaster. I am sure to try that out. Bookmarking this hub, pinning and sharing.

Thank you.

Jason Matthews from North Carolina on November 05, 2013:

Great hub! I have always believed that homemade gifts are so much more meaningful and appreciated than gifts bought at a store. When you make a homemade gift for someone, you show them you are not just spending money on them, but giving them your time, which is a big deal in any relationship. Thanks for sharing and voted up!

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 22, 2011:

Thank you so much, Windclimber - I very much appreciate the comment AND the link!

I suppose there ARE a few homemade gifts that would not be appreciated - one year my aunt knit me the UGLIEST turtleneck sweater (and it mysteriously disappeared soon after... we'll NEVER know what happened to it ;)

Windclimber from my boat somewhere on the Chesapeake Bay on December 21, 2011:

This is a good hub and it is nicely done! You have a high rating for it already, but I voted it up as useful anyway. I agree with the other hubbers - something made especially for you (except something godawful ugly!) is a much better gift than stuff anyone can get in a store. So, I linked to your hub (the only one, I might add) from my hub about what men really want in a gift.

Keep hubbing!

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 21, 2011:

Thank you, melbel, for stopping by and leaving a comment!

The marble magnets are my absolute favorite! I'm making them for almost everyone on my list! Hope you enjoy!

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 21, 2011:

Thanks, adrienne, for the lovely comment! Haha, yes, some are more unique than others, but these were my favorite easy-to-make gifts for Christmas presents. The peppermint bark is a classic, but it's still on my list of favorites ;)

Melanie Palen from Midwest, USA on December 20, 2011:

These are some really cute ideas! Thank you! I don't have a lot of time, but I should be able to make something like the marble magnets in time for christmas for my sister. :P

Fierce Manson from Atlanta on December 20, 2011:

Hi Laura, Well gota tell you, you have a very creative way of coming up with gifts on a college student's budget. Some of the gifts, well most are unique. Love the peramint bark yummy!!

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 20, 2011:

Thank you maxravi and videogameviking, for the nice comments! I'm glad I could help with your Christmas preparations! Good luck, and Merry Christmas!

videogameviking from California on December 20, 2011:

Those are some unique and interesting present ideas. Thanks!

Ravi Singh from India on December 19, 2011:

Thank you HP and all the hubbers.. I am getting so many ideas about christmas present.voted up!

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 19, 2011:

Thank you, RTalloni, for the lovely comment and DOUBLE thank-you for linking my hub! :) I really appreciate it, and I'm glad you like the cell/iphone case!


RTalloni on December 19, 2011:

This is another hub that is going to be a great reference tool for my little sewing student. Voted up. Would like to link this to my hub on denim fabric, if you have no objection. Thanks!

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 19, 2011:

Thanks for the comment, TransferAmerica! You're welcome, and thanks for stopping by!

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 19, 2011:

Thanks, Rob, for the comment! I'm glad I could help, and I'm so glad you enjoyed the ideas! I think the gifts that I remember and appreciate the most are the ones I get from friends and family who really took the time and effort to handmake something just for me! :) Thanks for stopping by!

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 19, 2011:

Thanks, Jennifer, for the lovely comment! I think a homemade gift is so much more personal, especially for people who have enough time to really put effort into the gift! I'm glad you enjoyed - good luck with the magnets!

rob_allen from MNL, PH on December 19, 2011:

I am no longer in college but I am starving because I am jobless. lol. by the way, i like this one, very useful especially for those people who are on a tight budget. You don't really have to buy expensive gifts just to be appreciated. what matters most is the thought that counts. :))

Jennifer Essary from Idaho on December 19, 2011:

Great Hub! Voted up and useful. I like homemade gifts better than the store bought variety. Will definitely try the magnet idea, I loved it.

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 15, 2011:

Thanks, icountthetimes, for the lovely comment! The magnets are my ABSOLUTE favorite, and they really do look wonderful once they're done!

You probably CAN find all the materials on Amazon, but I'd also suggest running to the closest craft store to get the materials and save yourself shipping costs! Good luck!

icountthetimes on December 15, 2011:

When I first saw the picture, I thought it was something you'd purchased. That goes to show how effective they look. I find that often people forget who bought them what present a few months after Christmas. With these on a fridge there is a constant reminder.

Hopefully all of the items I need to make these are available on amazon. That will make the process even more straight forward for me :).

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 14, 2011:

Thank you for the comment, icountthetimes, I remembered making these magnets in girl scouts YEARS ago, and it makes such a great Christmas gift! (And now my fridge has been appropriately decked out!)

I know that I always love to receive something that someone spent a lot of time and effort on to make just for me - homemade gifts REALLY show how much you care! Thanks again for stopping by!

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 14, 2011:

Thanks for stopping by, THEHuG5, I'm so big on homemade gifts because it's so much cheaper than trying to buy a bunch of gifts!

icountthetimes on December 14, 2011:

I'd never even heard of marble magnets until I read this hub. My Mother is mad on fridge magnets, so this is an interesting twist on that. I think people appreciate homemade gifts more too. Thanks so much for the gift idea. Voted up!

THEHuG5 on December 13, 2011:

Wow these are some great ideas! I;m glad I found this hub, I'm in college and I didn't know how I was going to manage to get gifts this year. Voting up :)

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 13, 2011:

Thanks for the comment, WritingItUp! I really appreciate it!

Writing It Up from New York City on December 13, 2011:

These are awesome ideas and hand-made gifts are the best. Thanks for sharing.

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 09, 2011:

Thanks, hubber088, for the comment! That is most definitely one of my favorites - I'm making one for my boyfriend this year! :)

hubber088 from Baltimore, MD on December 09, 2011:

Great hub, good ideas. I like the jeans iPod cover. It's cheap, original, and would do a great job of protecting the iPod. Not to mention you would think of your girlfriend every time you see it!

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 08, 2011:

Thanks, That Grrl (love the name, by the way!) for the lovely comment and the awesome idea! If I get a nice big chunk of free time this weekend, I'll definitely try to add it to this Hub! Thanks for the suggestion!

Laura Brown from Barrie, Ontario, Canada on December 08, 2011:

I read a post showing how to make a coffee cozy. That would be a good addition for your list. I've got felt I've been using to make Xmas stockings. If I get time before Christmas actually gets here, I might make some coffee cozies.

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 08, 2011:

Thanks for the comment, livelaughlove5. I made a set of these for my dorm suitemates! They were reallllly easy to make, and they are hard to screw up (I'm craft-challenged, so I'm THANKFUL these were easy!)

livelovelaugh5 on December 07, 2011:

I love the Christmas Firecrackers idea! Thanks!

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 07, 2011:

Haha - wow, thanks laurafollower1627...! I'm not entirely sure whether to be extremely flattered or slightly creeped out, but thank you nonetheless! :)

laurafollower1627 on December 07, 2011:

my goodness laurathegentleman i love your website i get on it every day. like literally can you tell by my name?? and my kids love your ideas 2!!

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 05, 2011:

Thank you, person1627! I'm not the creative one - I found all of these ideas online (but I did try every single one of them before I posted them - just to make sure they WERE cheap and easy! Do I get points for that?? Haha)

person1627 on December 04, 2011:

Very nice ideas you are a very creative person!!

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 04, 2011:

Thank you htodd, for the lovely comment! I'm glad I could help! Happy Holidays!

htodd from United States on December 04, 2011:

This is really great Christmas present ..Thanks for that

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on December 02, 2011:

Thank you, Deborah, for taking the time to read and to comment! Merry Christmas!

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on December 02, 2011:

LOVE THESE IDEAS.. what great Christmas presents.. I like to make my presents too. that is very creative.. thanks for sharing.. I voted up and awesome

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on November 30, 2011:

Thank lbidd54, for the comment and for taking the time to read! I'm glad you enjoyed these ideas - I'm always on the hunt for something easy to make for others that won't cost a fortune! Thanks for stopping by!

lbidd54 from The beautiful Jersey Shore on November 30, 2011:

Thanks for the unique Christmas gift ideas that are good for the receiver as well as the budget.

laurathegentleman (author) from Chapel Hill, NC on November 28, 2011:

Thank you sestasik! I tried the candles and they really ARE easy (but watch out - don't hot-glue your fingers!) but you have to make sure the bottoms are completely even, or the jar will be crooked! Good luck, and glad you enjoyed it!

sestasik on November 28, 2011:

Great ideas. I love homemade gifts, and usually do several each year. I've never seen the cinnamon stick candle holders. I'll have to try that soon.

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on November 19, 2011:

Very cute ideas, nicely presented. Welcome to HubPages.

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