#MerryMoney: DIY Can Save Your Holiday Budget

This is the third and final post in the #MerryMoney series, about the different strategies I’m using to keep my holiday spending under control. They aren’t rocket science (think how to have the awkward holiday money chat and how to set a simple gift budget) but if you’re looking for ways to get through the season without having to tap into your TFSA to do it, you’re in the right place.

Last year was my first Christmas celebrating with The Boyfriend’s family. We’re so lucky that he has a wonderful extended family in town, because it makes for really fun get-togethers throughout the year.

Buuuut it also meant that it was my first holiday with a lot of people, all of whom I like, and all of whom I want to (continue to) like me. By complete fluke, I managed to find a budget-friendly and frugal way to…

  • give gifts to each family unit we were celebrating with – four in total!
  • give gifts that everyone liked, and
  • give gifts that cost me under $10 each.

Let me introduce you to…. the brownie jar.

brownie-jar

I was scrolling through Pinterest – as one does – and I stumbled across this blog post, with all these gorgeous images of pre-packaged Mason jars filled with everything you need to make brownies, minus some butter and eggs.

And I thought to myself, that can’t be that hard, right?

Right?

Well.

Let me just tell you, putting a layer of flour into a Mason jar and expecting it to lay completely flat in a nice line is not as easy as you think it’s going to be. But in the grand scheme of Pinterest fails, they turned out pretty well, and the resulting brownies got rave reviews from the families who received them.

Each brownie jar cost me just under $10 to make, including a 12-pack of Mason jars and all of the ingredients, which I scored at Bulk Barn, my favourite place for frugal bulk ingredients. When I look at the other $10 gift options I had available to me, this one hit the perfect sweet spot of interesting, fun and widely enjoyable. There weren’t any others that quite hit that mark in my $10 price range.

All this is to say that DIY Christmas gifts have been a budget- and life-saver for me in the past, so this year, I doubled down on my Pinterest research to find my next great DIY gift for this year. In the process, I noticed there were five main categories of DIY gifts that could save you money this holiday season.

Without further ado…

#1. Baked goods

Cookies are some of my favourite budget-friendly treats when I have a long list of people I want to acknowledge, but don’t want to blow my budget on a $20 gift for each person. Coworkers have been on the receiving end of many a cookie gift from me.

peanut-butter-cookies

These soft-and-chewy peanut butter cookies have only ever gotten complaints from people with peanut allergies. They’re seriously easy and seriously yummy, if you’re looking for a new cookie recipe.

#2. Build- or bake-it-yourself kits

This is the category my beloved brownie jar falls into. You gather up a bunch of ingredients or items, hopefully without blowing the bank, and the gift is more than the sum of its parts because you package it together with a specific intention.

grown-up-hot-chocolate

You can find some great ideas out there, like hot chocolate kits for adults. Who wouldn’t be happy to get this on Christmas morning?

#3. Knitting

Ok, full disclosure, it took me two years to knit an infinity scarf.

Two. Years.

socksSo knitting isn’t exactly my forte, but I plan to work on that. Why? Because knitting – once you’re good at it – is the kind of thing you can do while you watch TV, and at the end of the process, you’ve created a treasured gift for the cost of some yarn. Yarn is not that expensive!

For the longest time, my great-grandmother was known for her hand-knit socks. You knew you were welcomed into the family when you got a pair of her socks made for you, and these socks were – and are – treasured beyond belief. She passed away this summer, and someday, I hope to follow in her warmly-socked footsteps in terms of knitted gifts.

#4. Handmade cards

The most frugal hobby I took up this year wasn’t actually this blog. It was hand-lettering.

I got into it because I wanted to do something completely different than my day job, where I’m online all day, and what’s less “being online” than writing on paper? It combines everything I love about working with words with everything I like about making art and being creative.

handmade-cardWhat I didn’t anticipate was that I wouldn’t buy a single greeting card after I got comfortable with my rough sketches. I stocked up on a box of blank white cards at Michael’s last March, and I still haven’t made a dent in them. Meanwhile, friends have gotten completely custom birthday cards, and my Christmas envelopes are so fancy.

And I’m no longer spending an extra $5 on every single occasion that needs a card.

#5. Crafts

Lastly, there are oodles of crafts you can do that don’t require much in the way of true crafting skills. Pinterest is full of ideas, and a go-to favourite of mine is the A Beautiful Mess craft page. Seriously, those ladies know their crafts.

My only advice? Pick one craft that you know a majority of the people you want to give it to will like. Nothing sinks a craft budget like buying specialized small items at Michaels for five different intended projects.

Michaels is my achilles heel of spending, did I mention that?

Regardless of whether hand-making is really “your thing” year round or not, taking the time to really nail at least one DIY gift can save your holiday budget, big time. Even just having a go-to cookie recipe or signature “brownies-in-a-mason-jar” gift in your back pocket can be a lifesaver when you run into situations where you’d rather not show up empty handed, or show up with just a card.

Do you have any killer DIY gift ideas? Share them in the comments if you do, I’m always looking for new ideas!

PS. Inspired by Mixed Up Money, Smart Women Can and Two Cup House, this is officially my last post of 2015. I’ve got some big projects planned for the new year, and I want to focus on them – and ok, drink some egg nog – over the holiday season. I’ll see you bright and early in the new year, and if all goes to plan, I won’t even be semi-anonymous by then!

I’ll still be over on Twitter though, because you’ll have to pry Twitter from my cold dead hands. Come hang out with me there over the holidays!