(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you’ll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)
I look forward to Christmas every year, but I think that the materialistic bent Christmas has taken does the season an injustice. This results in a lot of folks feeling pressure this time of year to spend hundreds of dollars on gifts for those around them. To avoid this, I make a lot of my own gifts. Below you’ll find 5 ideas for fantastic homemade gifts for frugal holiday giving.
Just a note: Some of these items are homemade food items. People’s comfort level with food gifts this year may vary. You know best what you are comfortable with and the comfort level of your own friends and family.
Homemade Chocolate Truffles
I made these as gifts one Christmas and felt like a culinary rock star! There are only two ingredients required to make chocolate truffles: pure chocolate and heavy cream. That’s right! It’s that simple!
You can use one 8 ounce bar of pure baking chocolate (semi-sweet or dark) and about 2/3 cup of whipping cream to make 20 – 24 truffles. If you have pure cocoa on hand, you can roll them in cocoa to finish them and make them look fancy. Here’s the recipe I used.
One store brand bar of baking chocolate costs around $2.71. Whipping cream is around $3.11 for roughly two cups. So, you could make up to 4 dozen truffles for just $8.56. If you give each person a dozen truffles and buy a small decorative paper box to put them in, the cost would still be around $3.11 per gift. I plan to make some again this year and….ummmm….eat them myself!
Mulling Spice Packets
This time of year, people really enjoy spiced red wine or apple cider. Making up ready-to-use packets of mulling spices in cheese cloth can be quite a thoughtful gift. It lets you give someone the means to enjoy a tasty tradition of the season.
Because the spices will be sitting in the hot wine or cider, you usually use whole spices for mulling, rather than powdered ones. My research for this article found that mulling spice recipes can vary. You could adapt your own mulling spice packets to what you think your friends/family might like and/or to what you have on hand. This recipe contains cinnamon sticks, dried lemon peel, dried orange peel, allspice berries, cloves and crystallized ginger. This other recipe contains cinnamon sticks, dried lemon peel, dried orange peel, allspice berries, cloves as well as cardamom and black peppercorns.
To make 14 mulling spice packets, you would need 1/3 cup dried orange peel and 1/3 cup dried lemon peel. You can save a lot of money by drying your own in your oven or dehydrator. I think a couple of oranges and lemons would accomplish this (approx. $3.89).
I found that the most budget-friendly way to buy the spices was in little packets at discount grocers
Most of these packets were only $1.50-$2.30. The only exception was allspice berries, which I could not find anywhere except our local Bulk Food Store. I bought more than enough whole allspice berries to make my 14 mulling spice packets for only $0.78. I would estimate the cost for an entire set of 14 mulling spice packets would be around $10.89 in total, including buying some cheese cloth to wrap them in for mulling.
So, these are a nice seasonal gift for about $1.00 apiece. Depending on how much you want to spend, you could also buy a jug of apple cider (around $3.89) for some people, or a bottle of red wine (doesn’t have to be the best for mulling). Each spice packet will mull half a gallon of apple cider or a 750mL bottle of red wine. Some people also might like to just put the spices on the stove in some simmering water for a holiday potpourri.
Chai Spice Tea Mix
If you’re looking for the most inexpensive of gifts for frugal holiday giving, it’s hard to beat this. “Chai” (Chaya, Chai, Cha) simply means tea in in a number of different languages. The collection of spices that makes up what we call “chai spice” also varies, like mulling spices. While you can make chai spiced tea with whole spices, that requires filtering everything and it makes a fair amount of mess to clean up.
The recipe I am sharing today uses powdered spices that you are more likely to have on hand. I am going to share a simple way to use it to make chai spiced tea that is less fuss and muss.
Here is my custom blend that you can use as a starting point for creating your own blend
All spices are ground:
- Cinnamon – 2 teaspoons
- Ginger – 2 teaspoons
- Cardamom – 1/2 teaspoon
- Allspice – 1/4 teaspoon
- Cloves – 1/4 teaspoon
- Black Pepper – 1/8 teaspoon
Directions for Chai Spice Tea
I put mine in a 1/2 cup jar and shake it to mix it. Any small container would work, as long as you can seal it. To make one cup of chai tea, heat up around 1 1/4 cup of milk of your choice in a small pot on your stove on medium heat. I add one teaspoon of sugar at this time. You can use honey or maple syrup, too. You can adjust this to your taste.
Take a bag of black tea and carefully open it up. I use Twining’s Irish Breakfast tea because they are already tied with a string. Put 1/4 teaspoon of the chai spice blend in the tea bag. I then twirl the top of the tea bag and then wrap the string around it, tying a knot. Place your chai spice tea bag in the warm milk and allow it to steep on low heat. Don’t stir the bag around too much or it is liable to rip or break. You may find you like more or less spice. I like a lot of spice and will likely add around 1/2 teaspoon of the mix for a cup of chai tea. Steep the tea bag until the milk reaches your preferred level of spice and strength.
This recipe makes about 4.5 teaspoons of mix. If you use 1/4 teaspoon per cup, then this will make 18 cups of chai tea. If you use 1/2 teaspoon like me, then this will make 9 cups of chai tea. So, this would be a nice amount for a gift. Fresh spices like this would last a year. While making tea might be the most popular use, you can also add these spices to tea biscuits or a sugar cookie recipe to spice them up.
I estimate the cost of making one batch of this as literally pennies per batch, maybe 39 cents or so. If you want to buy little decorative jars or festive labels for each batch, then you could add a dollar or so to each one. Buying a fresh new spice pack of each spice would cost you $9.33 (not including the black tea).
By buying the spice packets, you would have enough spice to make many batches, plus some leftover spices for your pantry. If you like chai tea, then maybe this is a gift you give to yourself this year!
Relaxing Bath Salts
It’s been a stressful year! Why not give the gift of relaxation to someone you love? You can save a lot of money by buying your own plain Epsom salts and adding a good quality essential oil to them. I made some a while back for a recent graduate. She appreciated it!
I bought a large jug of Epsom salts, around 9 pounds, on sale for only $7.78. I decided to give her a pint mason jar of the salts, which could be used in one bath, or spread across a few, depending on personal preference.
In a mixing bowl, I put a scant two cups of the Epsom salts. Then, I topped it up with a bit a sea salt I happened to have on hand. Then, I added only 2 drops of a high quality essential oil I had on hand, called “Peace and Harmony” by NOW. I mixed everything well with a spoon and then spooned the nicely scented bath salts into a pint mason jar. To make it look nice, I tied a bit of ribbon I had around the top of the lid. In case of allergies, I labelled the jar clearly with all ingredients.
If you don’t have an essential oil on hand, this gift would require an initial investment of around $11 – $15. However, then you would be able to use it for yourself for a very long time. If you make pint jars of the Epsom salts out of the entire 9 pound jug, you can make eight of them. If you don’t have any mason jars on hand, you can generally find little jars or tins for about a dollar fairly easily. So, even if you buy the essential oil for $15, the cost of each relaxing bath salts gift would still be under five dollars apiece.
A Personal Belonging
For my own Christmas this year, I don’t have a huge budget. I don’t mind at all. A couple of my favorite gifts I am giving this year were personal belongings. I gave my mother and sister the gift of kefira. I shipped them a starter colony of live kefir grains so that they can begin making their own homemade kefir. For an elderly aunt who has everything and loves quilting, I am giving a lap quilt I bought at a local thrift shop a few years ago. It is a stunning hand-stitched Christmas fabric sampler of many classic quilting squares. I am so glad I thought of this. I think she will love it!
Frugal Holiday Giving
Do you like to make your own gifts? Could you see yourself trying your hand at any of the homemade gifts offered here? Do you have a homemade gift idea you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments below.
Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. She has just launched her website, Half Acre Homestead. Colette invites you to stop by and visit this work in progress! Coming soon in February 2022 is her exciting new online program. Interested in Resiliency, Preventative Health, and Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Housing (to name a few!)? Stay tuned for more details!
8 thoughts on “5 Fantastic Homemade Gifts for Frugal Holiday Giving”
Here’s an idea that works to give to relatives but not to unrelated friends. It’s too late this year but it could be created in time for next year’s Christmas. Despite the old saying that a genealogist is a person who will trace your family roots back as far as your money will go, if you learn how to do that yourself the greatest expense will be your time and effort but not so much in cash outlays.
It’s vastly easier now with the internet to help although my DIY effort was done mostly before the internet came along. I managed to trace some ancestors back to about 1700 and some family artifacts back a century before that. I found ancestors from Switzerland, Ukraine, Ireland, Poland and the UK. Some had been POWs in European wars and whose grandchildren were in our Revolution and our War of 1812. I even found a great grandmother whose parents told the 1860 US census taker that they were born in Ireland. That puts them at about the right time to have fled the falsely named Potato Famine — which was caused by a British military blockade and confiscation of food supplies intended to starve millions of Irish to death. And that deliberate genocide was partly successful.
The greatest value in learning one’s family history is in helping your future generations understand their place in history. That includes not only who their ancestors were, but where they came from, the many disasters and opportunities that inspired their coming to the New World, their many accomplishments on our side of the Atlantic, and how present generations are firmly connected to that history. That gift of knowledge and a firm sense of place is invaluable. Not bad for a DIY project with minimal cash outlays even if it’s a bit late for this year’s Christmas.
Hi Lewis, What a fascinating idea! This is a great suggestion for a gift for family that is, indeed, quite meaningful. My beloved Uncle Allan, my mother’s younger brother, held this role in our family. He collected stories and did research, particularly on our Irish roots. I treasure those memories of spending time with him, and also of the stories and information I now carry in my heart and mind about our ancestors. I hope that some Frugalite readers will be inspired to take on a project like this. If they do, I hope they will let us know how it goes, as it would make a great article. Thanks for another unique contribution to the community, Lewis. Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!
I gave my step children the genealogy, pictures, and even a book mentioning family that took their fathers family back to about 1600 in Scotland. It was two years of research. I gave it to them the day of their fathers funeral this year in October.
thanks so much for this great article and your idea sharing. I have two questions:
Chai Tea – Are the spices you use ground or whole?
Truffels – one you mix the whipping cream and chocolate, do you spoon it out on a cookie sheet and refrigerate or leave at room temperature?
Again, thank you. Of all the teas (Earl and Lady Grey, English Breakfast, and Irish), Irish is my least favorite and I have a good bit of it socked away. This will put a new lease on its life for me
Hi Marti Girl Baker, Thanks for your questions! The spices I use for the Chai Tea are ground spices. That is why putting a 1/4 teaspoon into a tea bag works so well. Otherwise, the ground spices would need to be filtered out. For the truffles, there is a very particular way that you combine the broken pieces of chocolate with the warm cream. I’m so glad you asked about this, as I had meant for this link to make it into the article: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/homemade-chocolate-truffles/ This link provides specific directions for mixing the chocolate and cream. As well, she gives some tips on shaping the truffles, where you refrigerate the mix for 1-2 hour until it is set, and then you shape them into balls. Please let us know how it all goes. I’m glad you found a way to use up your irish Breakfast tea!
My Christmas gifts are usually homemade. I’ve made children’s wooden toys. Sometimes I find a special old time tool a friend may be searching for. Seniors may receieve lap quilts repurposed from beautiful antique quilts or salvaged pieces repurchased Into throw pillows. Young children get play quilts with roads for small vehicles. Doll quilts ect are easy and pretty. I have even made a special favorite doll a wardrobe of new outfits. For others I watch for books from favorite authors. I’ve helped fill in collections or books on special subjects. Regional wild edibles and medicinal are on friends book wish lists. I watch for those in good or better used condition. Those are on my Southwestern and High Mountain Desert book wish list. My sons last year received special antique or handmade made tools that belonged to my father and a greatgrandfather. My grandmothers pearl handled ladies 7 shot 22 pistol made in 1893, is going in a shadowbox with a great aunts beaded 1890s handbag. It isn’t safe to fire it. But it’s an attractive display. Another son will have this. On year I made
dozens of handmade dipped chocolates as gifts for 100 people at church. =1,200 pieces of candy. I work on each years gifts from October till finished, plus extras. My grandson is getting my welding books. His wish list. Neighbor girls want older scratch cookbooks and one wants a sewing machine. I found one for free that I’ve repaired. Craigslist is a good source.
Hi Clergylady, Oh my GOSH. You are so amazing! 1,200 handmade dipped chocolates are truly a labour of love. I see themes of thoughfulness and also skill in your descriptions here. Your grandmother’s pearl handled ladies 7 shot 22 sounds so beautiful. It is nice to think of it being proudly displayed in a shadow box. Thank you so much for sharing your description of Christmas gifts from past and present. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I am quite sure many others will, too. Wishing you a blessed Christmas this year.
Hi Everyone, I am giving an update, as I had HUGE success making my chai tea in an even SIMPLER way. I brewed my tea in my regular mug, leaving a bit of extra space for milk at the end. I just put my chai spice mix into my Irish breakfast tea tea bag, retied the bag and steeped my tea as normal in my mug. After a few minutes, I squeezed my tea bag and removed it. I added my sugar and milk at the same time. This was soooooo simple and made a great cup of chai tea. If anyone tries either method, please feel free to let us know in the comments how it turns out. Happy Holiday giving to everyone!