Christmas and other winter holidays are nearly upon us. As college students, gift giving can be hard, money can be tight and it can be difficult to pick a gift that is meaningful and budget friendly. As children we made gifts at school that were sweet and well-meaning that often become a treasured keepsake. As an adult I still love making gifts for loved ones.
Here are a few suggestions for handmade gifts that are both budget friendly and useful but also express the love you have for someone without the gift being only a popsicle stick photo frame.
One suggestion is to crochet or knit a scarf. YouTube has an unending number of tutorials that you can watch to learn how to crochet a scarf. A scarf can be completed in a matter of a couple hours and for most scarves you really only need two to three rolls of yarn to finish it. Hobby Lobby offers high quality rolls of yarn many of which are made from recycled materials starting at about $4 a roll.
Another suggestion would be to make your own bath and body products like bath salts and foot soaks. You would need just a few simple ingredients including a 5-pound bag of Epsom salt, which is about $5 at Walmart. You also need essential oils for scents, each one costs about $4. To make it fancy you can get a jar of Himalayan salt because it is thought to have some healing properties. Then, place the bath salts and soaks in clean empty Mason jars. The supplies alone would make several jars of bath soaks and we can all think of someone who’s been on their feet a lot lately and could use some pampering.
4 cups Epsom salt
1 cup coarse Dead Sea salt or pink Himalayan salt crystals
40-60 drops of essential oils
Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Be sure to break up any clumps that develop from essential oils.
Store in an airtight container, in a dark, cool place indefinitely.
For use: Add 1/2 cup of bath salts to your bath just before getting in.
Making your own candle can also be fun. The items needed can be purchased at local craft stores. You can personalize them by picking out one of their favorite scents and their favorite color. And, you can even give your candle a fun name based on the scents you’ve picked. If you choose to make your own candle, watch a few YouTube videos first.
Another fun gift idea that you can actually get younger siblings or children involved in helping with is making birdseed ornaments to give to a grandparent. Birdseed is relatively cheap and gelatin, which would work as the glue, usually runs about $1 to $2 per box at Walmart. You also need parchment paper or wax paper to line a sheet pan with and cookie cutters.
¾ to 1 cup birdseed
1 packet (.25 ounce) of gelatin (unflavored)
¼ cup boiling water
Cookie cutters, lightly greased
Twine and/or ribbon
Parchment or waxed
Instructions: Combine the gelatin and the water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Keep stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove the pan from heat and allow the mixture to cool for one minute. Stir in ¾ cup birdseed, adding extra as needed until all the liquid is absorbed. (Don’t add much more than 1 cup, otherwise there won’t be enough “glue” to bind the birdseed once dried.)
Place the cookie cutters on a parchment or waxed paper on a baking sheet. Fill each cookie cutter halfway with the birdseed mixture. Lay a piece of twine down the length of the cookie cutter. Fill to the top with remaining birdseed mixture, making sure to pack it down firmly.
Allow the ornaments to dry for several hours or overnight. Once completely dried, gently press the ornaments out of the cookie cutters.
If desired, add a decorative ribbon and hang on a tree branch for the birds to enjoy. This recipe courtesy of https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/birdseed-ornaments.
Students can also make food for gifts as well. Tins of cookies can be a real hit especially if its filled with a person’s favorite kind of cookie. Last year, I made my dad his favorite peanut butter cookies that my great grandma used to make so it was very special for him. This year, I’ve made jelly for people I care about. I’ve made sure to pick their favorite kind of jelly so I make sure that they have something they will love.
Some of the best gifts are those that come from the heart and homemade gifts can make a lasting impact on those you love.
Jessica is in the Digital Arts program and previously graduated with an AA in Liberal Arts and a Bakery Certificate. She enjoys cooking, hiking with her dog, Daisy, taking pictures and spending time with her family.