Gift Ideas for Broke Folks, Part I (Maybe)

We know what the Christmas season is all about.  I fully embrace the idea that Christmas is NOT about the gifts.  I like to give, however, and some years it is much easier than others to be able to afford to spoil everyone on your list.  Ok, for the record I have never “spoiled” anyone, but I try to find fun stuff for my kids and the folks in my life.  If your year has been anything like mine, you’ve considered relegating to giving gifts made of twist ties, toilet paper rolls, and/or dryer lint in order to have something to give.  Several times this year I have exclaimed “SHINY PENNIES for EVERYONE!” because the Christmas budget is bare.

Linties!  Get them while the dryer's warm!

Linties! Get them while the dryer’s warm!

I had delusions of successful baking for some people, as well as made some gifts that were not edible things that turned out much better.  There are real things that you can make that don’t cost very much, and are NOT made of lint (thank goodness).  Some are even fun for you, because not only do you get the pleasure of making things for others, sometimes you get the fun of emptying the contents of the containers you need to use.  I thought I’d share a few.  Keep in mind that I in no way consider myself an expert in this kind of thing!

For Grown-ups (or People Who Are Over the Age of 21 Whether or Not They Actually Acknowledge They Are Said “Grown-Up” or “Adult”)

Homemade wine bottle lamp.

Homemade wine bottle lamp.

Wine bottle lights-I saw one of these at a friend’s house years ago.  I loved it. Apparently there is a place near here that you can pay to have one made.  I’ve been hinting like crazy for one and have yet to get one.  So I started making my own.  Since I like to drink wine it was SUCH a hardship to drink wine to make one!  This year I made two of them for gifts and am working on a larger one, but I need the right size string of lights.  The ones I made I used the 20 count string of lights.  And I cheated a bit-you’re really supposed to drill a hole in the back to string the lights in.  However, while I found the right stuff at a close out sale, I realize that my drill bits weren’t big enough anyway.  I went back to the drawing board and came up with this idea.  I save the corks to make artwork out of, so I took the cork, cut a little out of the back, and then ran the cord through the groove I made and pounded the cork in.  They turned out really cool!  One more hint if you decide to attempt this-make sure the lights you purchase aren’t the kind with a plug on each end!

Dry Erase Board and Calendar from my house

Dry Erase Board and Calendar from my house

Dry Erase Boards and Calendars-I’ve made some of these for my house and I love them.  You can use an old picture frame or buy an inexpensive one.  All you need for the background is scrapbook paper, and if you want to put a calendar in it there are many free ones you can download from the internet.  They look so cool and cost a fraction of the price of the ones you see in the stores!

Stuff for the Kiddos


Sparkle bottles-A friend had some of these in her classroom.  I thought they were store bought.  I’ve always made these for my preschool classrooms, but they were very obviously homemade.  The trick is finding a really neat looking bottle.  She made hers out of Fuze brand bottles.  Since then I have been ingesting my share of Fuze whenever someone is having a baby or we have a little one needing a fun gift at Christmastime.  There’s nothing complicated about it and my daughter still plays with hers to this day.  You can use just water and food coloring as my friend did, or you can add glitter, confetti, beads, toys, the list is endless.  I’ve customized them to match room themes and one baby that was due around the 4th of July got one with red, white, and blue stars in it.  The big thing is making sure that you 1) wash them out beforehand and 2) superglue the lid shut.

I Spy Bottle

I Spy Bottle

I Spy bottles:  This one I attempted this year and is being put away for a future gift, mainly because I ran out of superglue.  It’s the same idea as the sparkle bottle, but I used colored sand that they sell at Hobby Lobby for very little.  The sand is mixed with glitter and then poured to fill the bottle up partway, and then it is filled the rest of the way with little toys, beads, and other found objects.  This could all change depending on your audience.  If I had more money I would have bought all different colors of sand and made a whole slew of bottles!  The picture above doesn’t do it justice.  This bottle has everything from foam snowflakes to metal peace symbols to a lego guy in it.  NEAT-OH!

It looks ok... I think it looks like dirty snow, with glitter.

Homemade play-doh.

Homemade play-doh-I’ve made this for my kids before and this year I made some to give to my nephew.  There are lots of recipes out there!  I made him three different little Christmas themed containers full:  Sparkly green play-doh, sparkly snow dough, and candy cane play-doh.  All were peppermint scented.  I also included some super duper holiday themed cookie cutters.  I was bummed that I could not find a snowflake cookie cutter to go with the snowy play-doh, but I did find a snowman one!

Other stuff I’ve done that I don’t feel like taking up any more memory on my blog account by taking pictures:  Every year I make photo calendars for my folks.  I have done them many different ways, including using programs on my printer and using TONS of ink to print out whole calendar pages, as well as ordering pictures and using scrapbook paper and a printed calendar.  I’ve made lots of pretty magnets in my day out of a variety of materials plus a strong magnet for the back.  I have made scrapbooks for people-my favorite gift that I ever made was the year I made a scrapbook for my husband of the team he coached.  I have written out recipes on pretty recipe cards.  I’ve made little kits of stuff too.  It just depends on who you have to gift too and what they like.  Some people are harder than others to make things for!

If you’re struggling with gift ideas and/or funds for Christmas, I hope this helps at least a little.  If not, you know where to find me to complain!  ;-D

DISCLAIMER:  If you have a husband like I do be prepared to be made fun of.  My husband teases me because he doesn’t get that you can make gifts for people and they often will like them better than any store bought gift.  I think it’s a guy thing (I mean, guys making things?  Come on!).  But honey, if you tried to make me something, the thought of you taking the time to make me something and presenting it to me for Christmas would be just the best darn tootin’ thing ever.  Except Peanut Butter Bars.  They are made of crack.

18 thoughts on “Gift Ideas for Broke Folks, Part I (Maybe)

  1. LOL, I soooo want a “lintie”!! Those are cute bottle ideas. The thing with kids, I’ve found, is that the toy is going to be set aside after a time anyway so why spend a fortune, especially when they’re young? I got Samuel a ride-on toy in perfect condition from the Goodwill for Christmas for $2.50, a book, a spin-and-say (also used), and bath cups (new from Wal-Mart). Tada! He’s 15 months old…anything he gets will get old fast. Haha But I never would have felt ok about buying second-hand or making the kids anything when I was a new parent. Idk why, probably pride. 😉

    • My daughter is getting a plastic shoebox full of Polly Pocket sized Disney princess stuff for Christmas. I got it at the consignment shop. And a used Lite Brite. I bet she won’t even notice. My son, on the other hand, is difficult to find things for that are used. He is into the superheroes right now, and so is everyone else, I’m afraid! I have only been able to find one used thing for him-an Ironman action figure!

    • If I can get enough ideas together, I may do a second one. I’m kind of lacking in the ambition department this week due to last Friday and then being gone all weekend. If I hadn’t had that post started already I probably wouldn’t have had one today! We’ll see what I come up with. I think I’ve fulfilled my goal, I can slack now and then. My original goal was to post every day of the month for a couple of months. It’s been 4 or 5 months now. 🙂

    • I made them awhile back because I wanted something that was pretty-not those ugly white ones. The only drawback I can find is that some of the markers don’t show up like I’d like them to on it! I just bought cheap frames from Target, but I’ve also made things from frames I’ve found really cheap at Goodwill and have spray painted.

  2. I really love the wine bottle lamp!!!

    This is a tough time of year – on the one hand, you want to spoil people, but on the other, that isn’t always possible.

    For me, the joy of Christmas is in being together as a family, and having presents to give to the kids. The thing with kids (at least the little ones) is that they don’t really care what they open, which makes it easier. You can wrap up a $1 candy bar and they’d scream “CHOCOLATE!!!!”

    I look forward to part 2 of your awesome ideas!!!

    • It was fun to make, and looks pretty snazzy! I think the colored wine bottles are really pretty when lit up. There are some other takes on the same idea on Pinterest too. 🙂 People are going to think I’m a lush, but I like creating things out of stuff that is otherwise going to be thrown away or just sit there. I saw where someone took wine bottles and painted them with chalkboard paint so they could be written on. How cool is that idea? That may be my next thing if I ever have money to buy chalkboard paint. Maybe if I skip wine for the next couple of weeks? 😀

  3. Oh! I love these! 🙂 I love the lamp 🙂 would love to have one, it’s so funny I just made play-dough myself, my boy just turned 19 months last week and has been playing with play-dough for 2 months and when I found out I could do my own, I was upset 🙂 you gave me a good idea, I will get a coke bottle and seal it shout with glue tomorrow (I will put a couple of things in there for my little man). I love home made gifts, they are from the heart and the person who made them for you was thinking on how to impress you by making them! 🙂 This year, I will be giving a couple of home made gifts myself (no big Christmas budget here!)

    • Have you ever made edible play-dough? I always wanted to make it for my kids but then was afraid they’d eat any play-doh! I took a class once where we made all different kinds and the edible stuff was really good. 😀 I’m glad you are doing homemade gifts-they are usually happy with the box anyway, why not take the time to make something fun? Kids are funny things, huh?

      • Merry Christmas! 🙂 I would love to try edible play-dough but have never tried it either because I’m sure my son and my dogs will eat it 🙂 Dec 24th and 25th were so exhausting but finally gave them the home made gifts; it wasn’t a lot but I think they liked it! 🙂

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