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The holidays are drawing near. Are you feeling pressure to buy gifts for your close friends or family members? You’re not the only one: Over 90 percent of students in a recent survey feel the same. While it’s easy to get swept up in the commercial side of the season—and many of us do enjoy exchanging presents with loved ones—the holidays can be an area of stress and anxiety for those on a limited budget.

Fortunately, there are tons of ideas out there for thoughtful and affordable holiday gifts. You can also use this as a chance to get involved with the DIY movement; homemade gifts are meaningful and a fun way to get your creative juices flowing. The following inexpensive gift ideas should help you get the ball rolling:

jar filled with cookie ingredients with bow1. Baking kits

Combine the dry ingredients for cookies, muffins, pancakes, or other baked goods in a bag or jar with a decorative label and instructions.

2. A thoughtful inscription

books tied with a bowPick up a book or journal for the reader or writer in your life and include a personalized message inside. Check out a used book store or thrift store to find books and even blank journals in good condition at a low price.

3. Custom coupons

homemade coupon saying "Valid for one free guitar lesson"Fun to make and with limitless possibilities, custom coupons such as “One free guitar lesson” or “One free homemade meal” are an exciting gift that will be much appreciated. They represent time together, and allow you to share your skills and interests with the giftee. Just make sure you actually follow through on your coupon’s promise!

4. Homemade granola

granola in a jarCombine some nuts and/or seeds, dried fruits, rolled oats, spices, and a sweetener of choice for a decadent, DIY granola. Stash in a large mason jar, wrap the cover in a scrap of fabric, and tie with a ribbon to complete the handcrafted look.

5. Starter plantspotted plant

Buy a pot or planter (these can be found almost anywhere for fairly cheap), fill it with soil, and add seeds or a starter plant. This is a great way to bring some green life indoors and brighten things up during the winter. You can even paint the pot to make it more personal.

6. Face and body scrub

face scrub smearedIt’s easier than you’d think to make a spa-quality exfoliating scrub. Simply combine brown sugar, honey, and olive oil, and store in a mason jar or other airtight container. Natural self-care is totally in, and your friend or loved one will be impressed with your craftiness.

“Something that highlights memories of your friendship or relationship—like a framed picture of your favorite photo of the two of you with a message written on the back—is a perfect thoughtful gift!”
—Jewel B., recent graduate, Villanova University, Pennsylvania

“I make cookies because I’ve found that I can stretch a double batch to cover everyone on my list, and it only costs me the price of ingredients and the small tins that I get from the dollar store.”
—Tanya B., third-year student, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, British Columbia, Canada

“Cross-stitch, homemade soaps, paintings, or handmade jewelry.”
—Abby T., fifth-year student, University of Rhode Island, South Kingstown

“Going and doing activities in order to spend quality time together instead of just giving a present. There are so many free activities available.”
—Connie, O., first-year graduate student, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, Minnesota

“Put together something from nature—for example, some driftwood tied into a cool ornament.”
—Sarah W., second-year graduate student, Clemson University, South Carolina

For more gift ideas, don’t forget to check out places like Goodwill or discount stores such as T.J.Maxx or Marshalls, which often have great deals on brand-name items. You can also find unique, inexpensive gifts on Etsy if you don’t have time to make something yourself. If you are up for getting crafty, Pinterest is always a solid resource for DIY inspiration.

In the end, the holidays are about spending time with the people in your life. Try not to stress too much about the gift-giving hype: The pressure you feel is most likely due to the pervasive nature of ads, holiday sales, and so-called cultural “norms”—not from any expectations from your loved ones. Your friends and family will love you just the same, regardless of how much (or little) you spend on them this holiday season.

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Article sources

MichellePhan.com. (October 6, 2011). DIY sugar and olive oil scrub [web log]. Retrieved from http://michellephan.com/diy-sugar-and-olive-oil-scrub/

Student Health 101 survey, July 2019.