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Homemade Christmas Gifts: 6 Frugal Ideas


Though the holidays are usually a time when people loosen their belts, the current economy is making more and more of us think about scaling back at Christmas time.

It feels grinchy, I know, to cut back on spending at Christmas time, but I really do think that you can do that without making your holidays any less warm and delightful. One way to save money while still blessing others with gifts is to make some homemade Christmas gifts.

Here are a few ideas that have worked for me.

1. Homemade Bread

IMG_4488Quick breads like pumpkin or cranberry bread are great, but if you really want to give a “wow” gift, trying making some homemade yeast bread. A lot of people can manage to make a quick bread, but the vast majority of the population has no idea how to make yeast bread. And since so few people make yeast bread, they generally feel that receiving a loaf is a fabulous treat.

One year, I gave my parents some bread at Christmas time and then promised to bring them a different variety of bread each month for the coming year. And one year when I was a teenager, my sister and I baked about 10 different kinds of yeast bread, using mini-loaf pans. We wrapped up the loaves, filled baskets with them, and gave them as gifts.

Even if you keep it very simple, though, and make loaves of sandwich bread, you can be sure that your gift will be well-received.

All of my yeast bread recipes can be found in the Yeast Bread category but here are a few recipes that are particularly good for gift giving.


Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Sandwich Bread

Whole Wheat Bread (this is sometimes a welcome change for people who get overloaded with sweets in December)

Homemade Buns

Braided Loaves

Homemade yeast bread does not keep as well as quick breads do, so you should plan to either give your loaves right away, or freeze them until gift-giving time.

2. Grape Jelly

Jams and jellies can be expensive to make, at least at this time of year, when produce is not highly available. My grape jelly recipe uses prepared grape juice, though, so you can easily make it at any time of year. A jar of jelly makes a great addition to a loaf of bread, especially a plain loaf like challah or whole wheat bread.

3. Drink Mixes

IMG_6819Mixes for soups, cookies, or brownies are often suggested as homemade Christmas gift ideas, but I think a drink mix is a better option because it requires little preparation on the part of the recipient. All too often I’ve seen layered brownie mixes residing on someone’s counter snuggled in a dust blanket, and that’s not how you want your present to end up!

I posted a recipe for a Chai Latte mix recently (there were some good suggestions in the comments on that post, so be sure to read them), but a hot chocolate mix is also a good idea (you could try this one from Alton Brown, although I might leave out the chili powder if I were you!). Russian Tea Mix or a coffee mix (there are a number in this list from Hillbilly Housewife) are also good options.

4. Photo Albums

For about the last 5 years, I’ve been making a small scrapbook album for my husband’s grandmother each Christmas. She lives in a fairly small condo and the last thing in the world she needs is stuff to clutter up her space. I know she likes to see pictures of our kids, but there’s only so much room for framed pictures. So, I buy an 8×8 album and fill it with pictures I’ve taken of our kids throughout the last year. She loves these especially because they function as a great brag book when she gets together with her friends. 😉

5. Framed Pictures/Art

IMG_9182-1If you’re good with a camera, a framed picture of you or your kids might be a great gift for a family member. Frames can often be found inexpensively at Goodwill or at a regular store on clearance, so this doesn’t have to cost a lot.

To make your framed picture look special, I highly recommend finding a frame with a mat. It makes such an enormous difference. I often sift through the frames section at Goodwill, specifically looking for mats. Even if I hate the frame, I sometimes buy one for a dollar or two if it includes a nice mat. I then remove the mat and insert it into a frame I do love.

I got this frame on clearance last year, and though I loved it and really wanted to keep it, I printed some pictures I’d taken of my niece and gave it to my sister-in-law last year at Christmas (the pictures themselves look kind of funky in this photo because they are behind glass. They really did look sharp and clean in real life, though!).

Even if you have no kids and your camera skills are abysmal, this idea could still work, with some variation. I framed a black and white picture from my Ansel Adams calendar, and you could easily make a set of these to give as a gift.

Or, if you’re at all good with graphics, you can make some really nice prints to frame as well. Sabby in Suburbia did this using powerpoint…check it out.

Of course, if you’re giving a gift like this, you’ll want to be sure you have a good feel for the recipient’s decorating style, so be careful!

6. Refurbish a thrift store/yard sale find


(this isn’t exactly homemade, but it’s close enough for me!)

Last year, I found two wall shelves at Goodwill which I knew would be perfect in my sister-in-law’s house. The only problem was that they were a lightly stained wood color, and my sister-in-law doesn’t really go for that look. So, I bought them and prayed for a warm day in December. Happily, some warm weather came in time, and I sanded the shelves, primed them, and spray painted them white. Unfortunately, I did not manage to take a picture of the finished product before I gave them to her, so you will just have to use your imagination. They looked SO much better in white, though, trust me. 😉

Again, you’ll want to make sure you know that this kind of thing will mesh with the recipient’s decorating style.


Those are my best ideas, but I’m sure that you have some ideas that are equally good (or better!), so please do share in the comments. What are your most successful homemade Christmas gift ideas?

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Thursday 15th of November 2012

I love this post! Thanks so much for the fabulous ideas. I am going to use your chai tea recipe as gifts for my friends. Keep up the inspiring work!


Sunday 17th of October 2010

I love this website, great ideas! I've handpainted 5-6 gifts already, each personalized for the person. I've tried things I didn't think I could do, dragons, peace signs, cartoon characters, each is as unique as the recipient. I've also written poems, that will be framed, done the photographs of the kids for all sorts of gifts. I want to make a memory box for my son and his girlfriend. Decomposing their picture on the top and putting a note inside, to fill it with all the memories they share together in the next year. For another couple whose focus is completely on getting married next June, I found all kinds of quotes online on marraiges, some wise, some funny. I'm going to mat and frame them for the couple. Crafting on the weekends, but accomplishing so much. FEELS great! And so nice on the budget worksheet for Christmas!!!


Monday 13th of September 2010

Alton Brown's hot chocolate recipe is by far my favorite, including the chili powder! I received it a few years ago as a gift, it is now one of my favorite gifts to make. However, I will say that I'm from Texas and we like things spicy down here!!

3 Ways To Prepare For Christmas (yup! Christmas.)

Thursday 18th of February 2010

[...] at a loss when it comes to homemade gift ideas, you might find the suggestions in my post on homemade Christmas gifts to be [...]


Monday 21st of December 2009

Thank you so much for posting the grape jelly recipe! I made it for the first time over the weekend, and it was so easy. I'm giving away some jars as gifts for the holiday. I'll never go back to store bought jelly again!

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