The holidays are a time for giving. Generosity, however, may leave you with an empty wallet as well as a full heart. According to the American Research Group, Inc., the average person spent $801 on holiday shopping in 2013. What’s a good way to keep the spirit of the season when on a tight budget?
Consider making a homemade holiday gift that can be perfect for next-door neighbors, children’s teachers, or your fourth cousin twice-removed. Here are some low-cost gift ideas:
Cookie Recipe Gift Jars
Not a baker? Recipe jars get you off the hook, while still offering a homemade baking touch. Use your favorite cookie recipe or browse online for another one, such as these chocolate peppermint cookies. Once you’ve found the perfect recipe, determine how many recipe jars you plan to make, and then make your grocery-shopping list for all ingredients called for in the recipe. Buy in bulk if you can, to cut down on costs. Finally, head to a craft store or dollar store to buy a batch of mason jars, colorful ribbon that’s 1- to 1.5-inch wide, pinking shears or other decorative-edge scissors, a single-hole punch, and stick-on labels.
- Type up the recipe and copy it several times on the same page.
- Print out the page on computer paper, then cut out each recipe with the scissors.
- Use the single-hole punch to make a hole in the corner of each recipe.
Layer each ingredient in the jars, then screw the lid shut.
- Thread the ribbon through the hole in each recipe slip, and tie the ribbon around the neck of the mason jar and into a bow.
- Write the name of the recipe on the labels. Stick a label on the front of each jar, directly beneath the bow.
The best part? You won’t be tempted to eat the cookies before they get to the recipient.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
For a gift that makes a lasting impression, think vanilla extract. The shelf life of homemade vanilla extract depends on the preparation method and how it was stored. Pure vanilla extract is said to last a lifetime, but imitation vanilla extract can last for roughly two to four years. Hence, if you make a few extras, you can keep them around the house for “thank you” gifts throughout the year.
Here’s a non-alcoholic, sugar-free take on the traditional recipe:
- One tall glass bottle, at least 17 ounces.
- Fill it with 16 ounces of food-grade vegetable glycerine.
- Cut eight vanilla beans length-wise.
- Add the seeds and bean pods to the vegetable glycerine.
- Cap the bottle and let it steep for 6 weeks.
Within a few weeks, you’ll have 16 ounces of vanilla extract that your family and friends can use for breakfast muffins and other baked goods for years to come.
Festive Scarf Wraps for Hot Beverage Cups
There’s nothing more cheering than holding a warm cup of coffee or hot chocolate on a cold winter day…expect maybe holding a warm beverage that’s wearing its own scarf. Let your gift recipients keep their beverage cups looking cozy – and their hands protected from the heat – with a scarf wrap. You’ll need to use new or scrap felt cut into strips that are 1- to 1.5-inch wide and about 23 to 25 inches long. Choose a fabric in the recipient’s favorite color, or one that has a festive print, such as snowflakes. Next, look for matching colored card stock, snowflake stickers, glue, coffee stirrers, and dishwasher-friendly travel coffee cups. Some reusable cups are as low as $1.
- Cut the card stock into a bunch of small rectangles, then cut a V-shape in the side of each one, so that it looks like a flag.
- Affix a snowflake sticker to each side.
- Write a short note on the flag, such as “Happy Holidays!” or “Warm Wishes!”
- Glue the flag to a stirring stick.
- Cut a fringe on both ends of each felt strip.
- Tie the felt scarf around the coffee cup.
To step it up a notch, put a tea bag, coffee bag or single-packet of hot chocolate inside each cup.
Whichever homemade holiday gift you choose, it’s sure to carry greater meaning than store-bought gifts because of the love put into creating it.