10 Quick and Easy Gift Ideas That Won’t Break The Bank (a guest post from Crystal Paine)

Hey there, readers! Today, we have a guest post from Crystal Paine, whom most of you know better as Money Saving Mom. She’s got a new ebook out about simplifying Christmas, and she asked if she could share a guest post here. As you know, I usually say no to guest post requests, but I’m delighted to open my blog up for Crystal.

It’s always smart to plan ahead, especially when it’s a major gift-giving occasion like Christmas. However, there will always be moments we can’t control that lead us to deviate from the plan. Whether you make these ahead of time or need something in a snap, these easy gifts will be just the answer you’re looking for.

1. All Natural Brown Sugar facial and body scrub
I know there are plenty of body scrub recipes out there but I guarantee this one is the simplest. It only uses two ingredients and can be made in only a few minutes.

1 tbsp coconut oil
1-2 cups brown sugar

Combine ingredients in a bowl.
Mix with hand mixer.
Empty contents into small mason jar.
Tie a small scrap of ribbon around the jar, into a bow.

You can adjust the measurements and create a bulk amount all at once to save even more time. Be sure to tell gift recipients, a little goes a long way. You can experiment with other types of “˜oil’ for different scent combinations.

2. Custom set of table napkins
If you know how to sew, you can easily whip out a set of table napkins. Gather scraps of fabric and cut into 18-21 inch squares. You can double layer them if you like.

If you have a serger, these can be finished within minutes by simply serging each side. If not, you can sew each side using the zigzag stitch setting on your sewing machine.

Click here for a more in-depth cloth napkin tutorial.

3. Pillow Case
Who wouldn’t like a unique pillowcase all their own? There are easy tutorials online showing how to sew a pillowcase but even without a tutorial you can look at a pillowcase and see the simple shape. This is a beginner project so don’t be afraid to try it, even if you aren’t that experienced.

You can make it a plain rectangle or spruce it up a little by adding a coordinating fabric for the edge.

If you are adding a fabric edge: pin long fabric edge to larger rectangle with right sides facing. Sew across pinned edge. Unfold edge.

Assemble your fabric rectangle with right sides facing. (with edge unfolded if you created one)
Sew up sides leaving short side open.
Turn right side out.

4. Customized Journal
You can find blank books/journals at any dollar store. You can also usually find decorative paper or use some from your own stash.

blank book
scrapbooking paper
glue stick/double sided tape/adhesive

Cut decorative paper slightly larger than book cover.
Cut 2 pieces of decorative paper slightly smaller than cover.
Glue larger piece to cover using adhesive of choice.
Fold over edges and glue.
Glue smaller pieces inside front and back covers.

5. Digital Keychain
This idea isn’t homemade but you can customize it using your own digital photos. A gift like this can usually be found in a pharmacy type store for under $10. After you’ve purchased the keychain, following instructions you can upload your own digital pictures to fit the recipient in just a few minutes. This makes a great gift for a grandparent or a parent when you include family pictures.

6. Mug o’ Goodies
I know you can always find good, solid mugs at the thrift or dollar type store. Fill it with the gift recipient’s favorite candy, goodies, packages of hot cocoa, cider or tea. Wrap with a bright red bow.

7. Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows

Chocolate dipped marshmallows are a fancy and delicious treat, and they’re simple to make!

large marshmallows
cup milk chocolate chips
chopped nuts

Melt chocolate in microwave
Dip large marshmallows in melted chocolate
Roll in favorite sprinkles or nuts
Let cool on wax paper lined cookie sheet

Wrap individually or place in a nice container or small pastry box.

8. Chocolate Dipped Stir Spoons

These spoons make delicious accompaniments to coffee or a cup of hot cocoa.

milk chocolate chips
plastic spoons

Melt chocolate in microwave. Dip spoons numerous times until chocolate it built up thick on the bowl of the spoon. Dip in sprinkles. Wrap individually in small treat bags, tied with a bow.

(I’m going to barge in here and say that if you prefer not to use disposable spoons, you can pick up some super cheap metal spoons at your local thrift store instead. -Kristen)

9. No Sew Fleece Throw Blanket

These fleece blankets are cozy, cute, and so simple to make!

1 yard fleece

1 yard is just the right size to snuggle up on the couch. If you want to make it extra cozy, you can easily make this blanket two layers.

Cut small slits along all four sides of the yardage, to look like wide fringe. Tie each strip of fringe into a knot.
If you are making this double layered: lay each piece of fabric on top of each other and cut slits. Knot each strip of fringe together so that both layers are attached.

10. Tea Cup Candle
How many times have I recommended the thrift store? It’s too good of a place to pass up, to find great deals. Find a nice tea cup and saucer and place a tea light in it. Include a few extra tea lights in your gift box.

Some of these ideas make take more time than others, but having a running list of frugal gift ideas will keep you from spending a ton of money on last minute gifts. If you always keep some big marshmallows, chocolate, plastic spoons, and sprinkles in your cupboard, then all you need is a few minutes! If you sew a lot and always have leftover fabric, then you’ll always have a stash for your napkins!

Choose the ideas that work best for your home and let go of the guilt and stress that so often accompanies the holidays. For more ideas on how to simplify your Christmas this year, check out my new book, Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas.
It’s only 99 cents through November 15!

Crystal Paine is a wife, homeschooling mom of three, and author of the brand-new ebook, 21 Days To A More Disciplined Life. For more encouragement to get your life and finances in order, visit her blog, MoneySavingMom.com.


Just a few quick notes from me about Crystal’s book:

It’s available only in Kindle format, but you can read books in a Kindle format online, so no worries if you’re Kindle-less!

I got a sample copy of Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas and after reading it through, I’ve concluded that you can benefit from it despite the fact that I blabbered on about Christmas for the whole month of October! Crystal’s book focuses a bit more on the practical side of simplifying Christmas whereas my posts were more about changing your mindset about Christmas.

So, I actually think that her book and my posts work quite nicely together. And since Crystal’s book is only $0.99 (thru tomorrow, that is!), you’re bound to get your money’s worth.

Joshua’s 365 post: Pixels and Lines (I don’t think this is a guess post, but it might as well be because I have no idea what I’m looking at in today’s photo.)


  1. Ashli says

    Love these ideas! I’ll probably be making some of them this holiday season, thanks for sharing! Quick question, did you mean 18 inch square for the napkins? 8 inches is pretty tiny…

  2. says

    I’ve seen the fleece blanket made up IN REAL LIFE! :-)
    And they look fantastic. They’re on my todo list…but currently still working on the scarves, which I am getting rather carried away with and am now knitting hats (getting sidetracked! and flowers!)…
    The post has reminded me to get my bottom in gear!

  3. Donnita says

    This post has some great ideas! I just picked up Crystal’s e-book thanks to your suggestion. I’ve read the first few pages and can’t wait to enjoy it with my morning coffee over the next few days!

  4. beth says

    These are cute ideas, but honestly if I received any of them they would go in the trash so I wouldn’t eat the sugar or in the goodwill pile.

    • Kristen says

      Really? You wouldn’t even use cloth napkins?

      As I mentioned during the Christmas series here in October, gifts work the best when the giver studies the recipient. So, hopefully anyone that’s giving gifts to you would know that these wouldn’t float your boat.

      But I’m very sure that there are a number of people out there who would like to receive some of the gifts on this list. They’re just not for you. :)

      • Virginia Dare says

        “As I mentioned during the Christmas series here in October, gifts work the best when the giver studies the recipient.”

        Excellent point, Kristen. When I was a kid, my mom made me give every one of my friends the same home-made gift for their birthdays. One year it was hair bows, the next it was scrunchies. She whipped a year’s worth up in an afternoon. Sounds quite frugal, right? Well, I felt humiliated, not because they were home-made but because even as a young person I knew it was thoughtless. (A point made even clearer by her announcement “I’m not going to a bunch of other children expensive gifts.”) I remember looking at the assortment, trying to choose the next birthday girl’s gift, and thinking, “Nina doesn’t want any of these bows. Her favorite color is green. And Chrissy has short hair–what is she going to do with a scrunchy or a big bow on a barrette?”
        As an adult, if you have a friend who, say, is very particular about her home and puts a lot of effort into choosing her colors, linens, accessories, an odd (as in no mate, not matching) pillowcase is not a very thoughtful gift, whether it’s home-made or Ralph Lauren. “Thanks for this thing I have no use for.” If, however, your friend is really into reducing waste and uses cloth napkins as much as possible, she would probably really appreciate an extra set of meant-to-be-used napkins, which can sort of be hard to find.
        And if you feel compelled to give someone a gift but you don’t really know them, my mother just retired from teaching and her favorite gifts from students were $5 Starbucks cards and pencils with erasers (she was a math teacher :-) )

    • says

      Wow, I’d love to receive any of these. All of my kids have those fleece blankets. And journals – I can never have enough. Thanks for the great ideas! :)

    • Jess says

      I felt awful for thinking the same, I don’t have a need for any of the listed items. I have a no sew blanket I barely use, I don’t drink coffee or anything to stir those in, I hate marsh-mellows, I have all the pillowcases I need, we don’t use cloth napkins, I have 1000 journals I don’t use already, A teacup with a candle would just be more cluttery. I think sometimes we get people stuff just to do it, when instead we’d both be happier without :)

      • says

        Most of the items aren’t ones that I’d enjoy that much either but I think we can ALL still learn from this post. I’m pretty sure Crystal’s intention was to help us to think “outside the box” and find creative gifts that we can make ourselves, not necessarily just the things she listed. For me, she did that. Thanks Crystal!

      • says

        Just because you wouldn’t want them doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t also! I think this was more a list of suggestions for you to make for other people not for someone to give to you.

    • ~ Dorthey says

      I couldn’t imagine throwing a Gift away….
      My fav were the Sugar Scrub …. To Pamper Ourselves is a Good thing.
      The Choc spoons … I like Hot Cocoa on a Cold Winter Night n sometimes on a Rainy Day. to Sit n sip cocoa n watch it rain is so relaxing to me ;)
      Cloth Napkins Are Pretty & Fancy & it saves MONEY & Trees & less Waste. Easy to wash n dry.
      & when ur Cloth napkins wear out…They become Pretty Cleaning Rags !

  5. says

    I love these ideas :) My favourites are the sugar scrub, which I think I will make for my mum and sister, and the fleece blanket which I love, but can’t think of anyone to give it to. Thanks for sharing :)

  6. says

    Great frugal ideas, I’m contemplating the make all my Christmas gifts from scratch this year and you certainly have some great ideas. I’d also like to share your ideas with my readers.

  7. Shaila says

    Choco-dipped stir spoon is a brilliant idea! I might try doing that one. You have a good list of personalized and affordable gift ideas for the holidays.

  8. Farhana says

    I’m disappointed to see you opened your blog for Crystal as her blog advocates buying the most while spending the least. Yes it saves your money but nothing is free, as we are paying the price from living in a vulnerable planet called Earth. Her blog is all about buying more things with complete disregard to what this mindset is bringing to our environment. Cheap/free things are disposable, life is not.

    Some damages are irrevocable, think perforated sky and endangered Polar Bears.

    • Kristen says

      I’m sorry you’re disappointed, but as a friend of mine once said, “Chew up the meat and spit out the bones.” That’s kind of my philosophy when it comes to blogs. I’m not a couponer/deal-seeker/freebie-orderer, but I appreciate Crystal’s posts and books about simplicity, organization, debt-free living, and DIY. She does recommend owning only what you need and shopping at thrift stores, so I don’t think you and she are at odds as much as you think.

      And I can be totally supportive of her last two ebooks because of their content-they’re not deal/freebie stuff.

    • Emily says

      I would have to disagree with you- at least on the part about Crystal advocating “buying the most while spending the least.” I have read her blog for a number of years, and if I have learned anything from her, its that the best way to save money is by simplifying our lifestyle and buying LESS STUFF! I would say I actually coupon LESS (and therefore shop less in general) because of what she has taught me.

      Just another person’s opinion. :)

  9. Sara says

    I found it surprising that she asked to do a guest post…. I guess I thought it was always the other way around! Interesting…. I can also “hear” that you’re not sold on the idea in your intro.

    And although she put a disclaimer on her blog, the post didn’t ring true here as she has often shared that she’s not a sewer/crafter. No biggie, just an observation.

    You’re the real deal, Kristen, while MSM is obviously in it for the clicks. While this post was mildly interesting, it wasn’t “you” in the way all your posts are so well-researched and you’ve obviously tried every recipe/product /technique that you blog about and recommend.

    Anyway, it’s not a big deal… just some observations from a regular reader.

    • Kristen says

      Oh, no, it’s quite common to ask someone else if you can guest post. It’s much more uncommon to ask people to guest post on your blog…usually they come to you.

      I’m always slightly hesitant to publish guest blog posts because I know when I read a blog, I mostly want to hear from the original blog author. For instance, I usually will read posts that Crystal writes, but typically I skip the guest posts. But I appreciate a lot of things that Crystal does, and I wanted to support her efforts to spread the word about her new ebook.

        • Kristen says

          I should add that I appreciate your feedback, truly I do! I like to know how readers feel about things, especially unusual things like a guest post.

          And I’m glad you’ve noticed that I never post about tutorials/recipes/ideas that I haven’t tried. I feel like that’s really important, because when I read a blog, I want to know about the author’s personal experience.

  10. Jenna says

    It seems to me like there are a few steps missing on making the spoons as well.
    Some cooling before placing them in a bag wrapped.
    Also how hot if the mixture is too hot then it would melt a plastic spoon so how long in the microwave and are the directions for the carmel more or less time???

  11. Melissa says

    I bought a teacup with saucer at an auction for cheap and and going to wrap that up for my mother in law. I might not like the gifts on this list but it’s great for ideas for others and I appreciate the time it took for you to put it together!!

  12. Melissa says

    Oh and we did chocolate dipped spoons with the kids at church one day to give out with the verse “Oh taste and see how good the Lord is!”

    • Crystal DV says

      My husband has been complaining that all of our throw blankets are too small – but of course he doesn’t want me to go out and buy a larger blanket lol (Mr. Frugal himself!). I think the fleece blanket is the perfect gift for our 6 year old to make for him! Great thought! Thanks for the post and ideas =)

  13. kaz says

    Instead of just decorating the journal/book, how about writing recipes in it? Especially recipes for food the recipient liked when you cooked it – yes, share your secret recipes.

  14. Katie D says

    What kind of sucks about the fleece throw is that it is still relatively expensive. 1 yard doesnt’t seem like it’d be terribly large or practical so I’d buy a little more. Even still, I don’t know about you guys, but in my neck of the woods (suburban Missouri, nothing crazy expensive), fabric and especially fleece is fairly expensive. A cute pattern usually runs $8- $15 a yard so if I bought a few yards…. holy crap!!

    Does anyone know of a more affordable online store to get fabric?

    • Kristen says

      That’s definitely something to take into consideration. When I made blankets for my girls last year, I bought the fabric at Jo-Ann’s, and they have coupons most of the time. And they accept Michael’s 40% off coupons as well. If you use a coupon or hit a sale, you can come out pretty well.

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