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25 Holiday Gifts That Don’t Cost a Dime

"It's the thought that counts" is usually a cop-out for someone giving a cheap gift. But with these ideas, you can create an inexpensive but still meaningful present for anyone on your Christmas list.

Flat lay composition with Christmas decorations, headphones and music sheets on wooden tableNew Africa/Shutterstock

A little effort can go a long way

New Africa/Shutterstock

Time and money: Those are two things you might not have a lot of around the holidays. And that can pose some serious challenges when finding the perfect presents for everyone on your list. But with a little effort—and we really do mean just a little—even the least crafty people can whip up some fantastic homemade gifts with items they already have at home. These fabulously festive and thoughtful DIY ideas won’t cost you a thing, but they will mean a lot to the people who receive them.

Body scrub of ground coffee, sugar and coconut oil in glass jar on white rustic table, homemade cosmetic for peeling and spa care, top viewJulia Sudnitskaya/Shutterstock

Coffee scrub

The coffee lovers on your Christmas list will love this homemade scrub that will make them feel like they’re at the spa. It’s a great exfoliator to use anywhere on the body to brighten skin, increase circulation, and even reduce the appearance of cellulite. Plus, it’s a cinch to make with ingredients you have in your pantry. The recipe calls for fresh or used coffee grounds, brown sugar, coconut oil, and vanilla. Put the scrub in a clean jam jar, and tie a festive ribbon around it to make it look holiday-ready. For more DIY beauty gift ideas, here are 9 dermatologist-approved homemade skin-care treatments.

Oranges for decoration for the new year. Decorating oranges with cloves for the holiday.EKramar/Shutterstock

Orange pomander

Oranges are inexpensive in the winter and make fun, aromatic gifts for the holidays. That’s why we love using them to make pretty little pomanders (scented, decorative balls for your home). For this creation, you just need firm, fresh citrus fruit, dried cloves, a toothpick, and an orange zester. Use the zester to make designs on the fruit. Then, poke a row of holes in the orange with a toothpick and push the cloves in. Or if you’d prefer another scent for the season, check out these 11 DIY ways to make your home smell like Christmas.

 

hand painted Christmas salt dough ornaments on festive wood tableLynne Ann Mitchell/Shutterstock

Salt dough ornaments

This traditional Christmas craft is a kid’s favorite—to make and to give as a present. Just mix together 4 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 and 1/2 cups water (more if needed) to form a slightly dry dough. Knead for about 10 minutes, then roll out the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to make festive shapes, use a straw to punch holes at the top of the ornaments, and place them on a lined cookie sheet. Bake at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for one to two hours, or until the dough is completely dried through. Once the ornaments have cooled, paint them and/or add glitter with glue. Tie a colorful ribbon through the hole at the top, then gift away! And don’t stop there: Keep the kids busy with these 20 easy Christmas ornament crafts.

Hot chocolate mix with marshmallow for Christmas presents or cooking holiday drink.lidante/shutterstock

Hot cocoa mix

Who doesn’t love curling up with a warm mug of hot cocoa on a cold winter day? Exactly, and that’s why this recipe for homemade hot cocoa mix makes a perfect gift for nearly anyone. Using a few pantry ingredients—dry milk powder, powdered nondairy creamer, confectioners’ sugar, baking cocoa, and instant chocolate pudding mix—you can mix up a large vat of dry cocoa mix. Divide it into glass jars, add layers of mini marshmallows and crushed candy canes, top it with seasonal fabric, and tie a candy cane to the whole thing for a fun, festive touch. If you’re a chocolate lover yourself, you won’t want to miss these hot chocolate hacks.

 

Homemade rustic Christmas tree decoration made from sticks and ornaments with large six pointed star on topstockcreations/shutterstock

Rustic twig hanging tree

People would pay good money for this unique holiday decoration, but all you have to do is forage in your yard for twigs to create it! Once you’ve gathered the materials, cut the twigs in graduating lengths and secure them with twine. Add homemade ornaments to the branches, and tie a flat dough-star ornament to the top. This little rustic tree is perfect for friends and family who love farmhouse decor. Add to the holiday ambiance in your own home by making these easy DIY decorations anyone can handle.

together2courtesy Amy Latta Creations

Hand-lettered sign

This is a perfect last-minute gift for the person who has everything. And even better, the recipient of this gift will be able to take it out and display it year after year—and think of you every time that happens. Amy Latta Creations makes it super easy to create this custom, hand-lettered sign without actually needing to know how to hand-letter. Just grab her free printable and frame it. Yes, that’s it! Another thing that looks expensive but isn’t? These 14 free printable Christmas cards everyone will love.

Small Christmas tree juniper in a pot. Decorated with tiny golden balls, dehydrated slices of citrus and light garlandKristina Sorokina/Shutterstock

Evergreen arrangement

Make your own mini tree by gathering fragrant branches in your own backyard. Clip pine, juniper, or other evergreen boughs, and place them in a pot or a lined basket filled with potting soil. Decorate the branches with dried oranges, apples, or other seasonal fruit, tiny golden balls, and/or DIY Christmas ornaments. This arrangement can be enjoyed for weeks as long as the soil stays moist. DIYers–these personalized gifts will go the extra mile.

Christmas snow globe handmade of used glass bottlerumo777/Shutterstock

Glittery snow globe

Upcycle glass jars into homemade snow globes! To achieve the look in the photo, secure a flat, felt ornament on the outside of the jar. For a more traditional snow-globe look, glue a waterproof ornament to the bottom of the jar. Set it aside to let it dry. Next, add clear glue to a bowl, along with warm water equal to the volume of the jar. Add glitter and stir. Place the lid onto the jar to seal. Embellish the jar with ribbon, and it’s ready for gifting!

Two white knitted bottle covers and one empty wine bottle placed on a white backgroundEudyptula/Shutterstock

Knitted wine-bottle bag

Did you get a few too many bottles of wine this holiday season? Regift one (or more) of them—but add a personal touch. This adorable wine bag is made from the sleeve of a sweater and requires very little sewing. To make it, cut off a sweater sleeve, and turn it inside out. Then, sew it across the bottom (the end with cuff is the top). Flip it right side out, secure the bottle of wine with a ribbon at the top, and you’re done! This is a great way to upcycle a sweater that’s seen better days.

Homemade herbal scrub (foot soak or bath salt) with rosemary, thyme, sea salt and olive oil. Natural skin and hair care. DIY beauty treatments and spa recipe. Copy spacekazmulka/Shutterstock

Herb salt

Create your own gourmet salts with herbs from your garden. These salts are easy to customize and will look great packaged in little glass jars. To make them, you’ll need a handful of your favorite herb and a cup of kosher salt or sea salt. Pop both ingredients into a food processor and blend until the herbs are finely chopped. Spread the herb salt onto a cookie sheet, and let it dry overnight. You can add citrus rinds and fresh garlic to the salt, too!

Fire-Starter-Beauty1courtesy Debbie Wolfe

Fire starters

These little items do exactly what you think: They help get a fire going in your fireplace. But even better, they’ll also give your fire a lovely, cozy, seasonal aroma. You can create fire starters, like this one from Do-It-Yourself Garden Projects and Crafts, from items in your yard, pantry, and dryer vent. (Yes, you read that right.) First, combine dry pine cones, pine needles, cinnamon sticks, and dryer lint, and put it into cupcake liners in a cupcake tin. Then, melt down old wax candles, and pour the wax over the top of your mixture. Let the wax cool, and you’ve got a pretty present. You can even add a little homemade tag with these directions for use: Put one fire starter (cupcake liner and all) underneath kindling, then light. Here are some other clever hacks to make everything in your home smell amazing.

Cozy wool winter accessory. Warm sweaters Kryvenok Anastasiia/Shutterstock

Sweater pillow

Transform sweaters you don’t wear anymore into this cozy and fun DIY gift. Use the body section of the sweater to make an easy pillow covering. (Cable knits are particularly great for this, though other types can work as well.) These sweater pillows are perfect for the colder months and make great hostess gifts. Bonus: You get to clean out your closet while making this. Talk about multitasking!

 

Christmas Recipe Menu Concept. Ingredients for cooking christmas baking and empty white paper notebook on brown stone background. Top view with copy space, mockup conceptAnikonaAnn/Shutterstock

DIY cookbook

Share your family’s best recipes with friends. Simply compile all of your favorites into a notebook, and to round out the gift, make one of the dishes to go along with it. After all, there’s nothing better than sharing a home-cooked meal with your nearest and dearest. And while the meal will last only for a short time, the custom recipe book will last forever. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving. For other holiday cooking ideas, check out these 13 delicious Christmas food gifts that anyone can bake.

Flat lay composition with Christmas decorations, headphones and music sheets on wooden tableNew Africa/Shutterstock

Holiday music

New Africa/Shutterstock

Gone are the days of the mixed tape, but you can still give the gift of music to a special someone. Create your own holiday playlist of your favorite Christmas tunes, and don’t forget to include a few songs that the recipient particularly loves, too. You’ll likely want to add some (or all) of these 20 best-ever Christmas songs.

Cookies for christmas different shapesRawpixel.com/Shutterstock

Cookie tray

You can never go wrong with homemade holiday cookies. The cookies are festive enough on their own, but they look even better on a pretty Christmas plate. And aside from enjoying these yummy treats, the recipient will appreciate all the time and effort that went into this gift. Another idea for spreading the cookie cheer: Organize a cookie-exchange party so that you can get more people involved in this simple gift swap—and so you can try even more cookies. For your cookie-palooza, try these 20 Christmas cookie recipes you’ll want to make this year (and every year).

christmas stockings and gifts around the treesjarrell/Shutterstock

Sweater stockings

Maggy Woodley at Red Ted Art created these knitted Christmas stockings without knitting! Her secret? She uses old sweaters to create this effect. Leave them plain, or add holiday-themed felt cutouts and buttons. These stockings do require a minimal amount of sewing, but the results are absolutely adorable and totally worth it.

 

A cup and tea-pot is in New-year scenery. Decorated the knitted scarf and cap create the atmosphere of heat, comfort, holidayiryna Babenko/shutterstock

Cup cozies

You’re not done with those old sweaters just yet! Cup cozies are another way to repurpose them. For this project, you’ll just need the cuffs. Cut them off, and make a 1/2-inch slit at the seam for the handle to pop through. Mix and match cuffs to make a whole set of cozies. You can also use the ribbed cuffs of any sweatshirt or jacket. If you’ve been bitten by the crafting bug, don’t miss these other handmade gifts for everyone on your list.

 

DIY-Christmas-Presentscourtesy Paula Skulina

Wine cork snowflake

Here’s a great way to re-gift those wine corks you have lying around your house. Paula Skulina from Sweet Pea came up with a fun, easy-to-make ornament using wine corks, glitter, and ribbon. Find out how to make it at virginiasweetpea.com.

DIY-Christmas-PresentsTaste of Home

Homemade Christmas potpourri

Ever wish you could bottle up those magical Christmastime scents? You actually can—and give it as a gift (or keep it for yourself). Choose one of these fun smelling “recipes” and put the ingredients in a mason jar as a gift. When your recipients add the contents to a pot of water on a low simmer, their houses will smell like Christmas.

DIY-Christmas-PresentsHannamariah/Shutterstock

Refurbished picture frames

Turn a cheap purchase into a memorable Christmas present. Buy old frames from the dollar store or a garage sale (the more intricate the designs, the better) and give them a fresh coat of brightly colored paint. Be sure to put a cute photo of the two of you inside. Don’t miss these other Christmas gifts for people who are impossible to shop for.

DIY-Christmas-PresentsThe Family Handyman

Photo collage tray

Want to gift a more inventive photo display? Editors at The Family Handyman came up with this creative way to show off fun photos. They decorated a white wood tray with photos and stickers and covered their designs with an acrylic piece. Make it more special by adding mementos like movie stubs or quotes from the recipient’s favorite TV show.

DIY-Christmas-PresentsTaste of Home

Sand art brownie mix

This DIY gift not only looks pretty, but it tastes delicious. Layer the brownie ingredients in a mason jar and add a festive gift tag. All the recipient will need to do is add eggs, canola oil, and vanilla to prepare tasty brownies. Get the recipe from Taste of Home. Want more delicious ideas for presents? Check out these Christmas food gifts that anyone can bake.

DIY-Christmas-Presentscourtesy The Crafty Blog Stalker/Katie Adams

DIY cell phone cover

Cell phone covers can be pricey, and many of the more reasonably priced ones only come in solid, boring colors. But with this clever idea from blogger Katie Adams, you can turn any ordinary cell phone cover into a work of art with some washi tape and decoupage. Get all the instructions from The Crafty Blog Stalker.

DIY-Christmas-Presentskazmulka/Shutterstock

Homemade lemon body scrub

If you’re lucky enough to not be hosting the holiday party you’re going to this year, you don’t have to go through the effort and stress that your hosts put into the big event. Thank them for their hard work with a relaxing, rejuvenating body scrub. Mix a half-cup each of Epsom salt, sugar, and coconut oil. Then add one tablespoon honey and five drops of quality lemon essential oil. You can also check out these other homemade scrubs to pamper tired feet for more ideas.

DIY-Christmas-PresentsTaste of Home

Good mornin’ pancake mix

There’s one gift that no one thinks to ask for but is universally adored: the gift of breakfast. And this pancake mix doesn’t make your average pancakes. The orange peels, raisins, and cinnamon give the batch a touch of special festive spice that the cook in your family is sure to appreciate. Put the raisins and almonds in one bag and the rest of the dry ingredients in a second bag, and tie them up with a holiday ribbon. Get the full recipe from Taste of Home.

DIY-Christmas-Presentscourtesy Through the Yellow Door/Annie Fenneman

Glittery holiday message bottles

Give your friends a festive sparkle this Christmas with these decorative wine bottles. All it takes is some paint, Modge Pog, and glitter. Lots and lots of glitter. Get the instructions from Annie at Through the Yellow Door, but feel free to put a different message on the bottles or use a different color combination, like red and green or silver and blue. Not exactly the crafty type? Then check out these Christmas gift ideas for people who are impossible to shop for instead.

Debbie Wolfe
Debbie Wolfe is an author and freelance writer specializing in home, garden, DIY, and lifestyle topics. She covers lifestyle, culture, and craft content for Reader's Digest and contributes regularly to HGTV, The Home Depot, Walmart, Family Handyman, Realtor, Bob Vila, and more. Her book, Do-It-Yourself Garden Projects and Crafts (Skyhorse Publishing), features a variety of practical DIY projects to beautify your garden and home. Debbie holds a degree in Creative Writing and Earth Science from Northland College.