DIY gifts for cheapskates

It’s already December, and it’s likely you forgot to budget any money for gifts this year. Instead of cheaping out and giving your Dad another $3 tie, check out these gifts that are not only frugal but easy to make yourself.

Hand-painted mugs

Even if you’re not artistic, these gifts always turn out great. Get a white porcelain coffee mug from the dollar store, grab a couple sharpies and get creative. When you’re done with your design, stick that sucker in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for half an hour, and your design is permanent. Make sure to let the recipient know your gift is hand-washable only, though.

Holiday Candy

Peppermint Bark is a delicious and easy-to-make gift idea for those with a sweet tooth. (Ryan Tibbitts/CU Independent)

A great way to fill a mug, there are a lot of holiday sweets that don’t require a candy thermometer. The easiest of these is probably peppermint bark. Line a cookie sheet with some wax paper or foil. In a bag, crush enough candy canes to get about one cup of candy cane pieces. Melt one pound of a darker chocolate, such as semi-sweet or milk, in the microwave at half-power for 30-second intervals. Stir after each interval. When all the chocolate is melted, pour into your lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate for one hour. When the bottom layer has hardened, melt a pound of white chocolate the same way and pour over the darker chocolate. Sprinkle the broken candy cane all over the white chocolate layer. Refrigerate until hardened, break into pieces and gift.

If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, try making some truffles from scratch.

Homemade Coupons

As cheesy as they might sound, parents love these. Whip up a home-cooked meal while you’re home for break, or offer to babysit for date-night. Give your roommate a free week from dish washing. You can make these from leftover index cards and multi-colored markers, or print them off of the computer.

Decorated Notebook

A simple journal is a great gift for a friend about to go abroad, an aspiring writer or just someone who loves office supplies. Spruce up a plain composition book with some decorative paper—scrapbooking paper works best, but you can layer on computer paper if need be. Paint on glue or Mod Podge to the front cover of the journal and apply the piece of paper, lining it up with the edge of the black spine material. Scrape out any bubbles or warps in the paper with a ruler. When the glue has dried after about two hours, cut the edges of the paper to square up with the edge of the cover. Repeat the process for the back cover and inside cover.

Albums on the Hill sells discounted, “pre-loved” Christmas records for the vinyl lover on your list or a bowl. (Ryan Tibbitts/CU Independent)

Gift Baskets

If you have a little extra cash or need to make something a little bigger, go for a gift basket. You can get some baskets at the dollar store or, if you’re clever, you can make your own, like a melted record bowl.  Fill the basket with trinkets tailored to the recipient. If they’re a music lover, make a couple of mixed CDs to put in the record bowl, or a framed photo from their favorite concert. If you know a movie buff, fill up a basket with a DVD and some bags of popcorn and movie candy.Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sarah Elsea at

Sarah Elsea

Sarah Elsea (more commonly known as "Just Elsea") is a junior Poetry and English major at the University of Colorado. Originally hailing from Virginia, she enjoys her cat, cooking biscuits and gravy, and reading poetry. Contact CU Independent Senior Staff Writer Sarah Elsea at

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