Tales of a Gift Giver: DIY Gifts for Any Occasion

Being a teacher isn’t the best way to save money on gifts, so I decided to get a little more creative this year and put a homemade aspect into a lot of my family’s gifts. Here is a rundown of my DIY gifts, and how to make them in case you get inspired ; )

For my mom….

Owl Piggy Bank

When my sister came to visit me in Tulsa, we visited Color Me Mine in Tulsa. This is a “paint your own ceramic thing” kind of place, and of course, I chose the owl. It’s actually a piggy bank, and I instructed my mom to use it to save up money for her next trip to come see me. We always end up going shopping, so I figured every time she is feeling stressed out from daily life, she can look at the equally stressed out owl and deposit change in it to save up for something fun later : )

For my sister….

book of awesome

Last Christmas, my sister gave me this book called “The Book of Awesome.” It contains short passages about the small things in life we should appreciate like driving around to see Christmas lights, finally remembering where we’ve seen someone before after staring at them forever, and playing Robin Hood with batteries in your remotes around your house (steal from the rich and give to the poor!). She not only bought the book, but also had marked it up commenting on various things, drawing illustrations, and coming up with her own Awesome things unique to us. I would randomly read it all year, and was absolutely *delighted* to find out they had released a sequel to it. I bought it, and also the holiday edition, and spent hours and hours marking each passage up and thinking up new awesome things. I was actually afraid she would buy the same thing for me, so I tried to add as much as possible and bought that holiday edition as a back up bonus gift, haha. Luckily, she got me Lego Lord of the Rings instead, so I was safe ; ) Taking a coffee table book and personalizing it for a friend or family member is quite awesome on its own, and it is an easy gift to put together.

For my dad….

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Confession Time: I watch a lot of “beauty gurus” on YouTube. I think I follow like 20 now??? It’s a bit ridiculous, but led to a great Christmas gift idea this year. Rachhloves posted a video a long time ago about DIY gifts, and one of them was a jar of notes. Essentially, you decorate a jar and write a bunch of notes with quotes, sayings, memories, etc. for the person to read throughout the year. Well, I am more fond of boxes so I went straight to my local Michaels and bought this basic black wooden box and some scrabble-like tiles (yes, I had the scrabble idea and assumed the store would have it- luckily it did). I spent about an hour arranging the tiles into the perfect way to state the purpose of the box and take up most of the lid. I did this while Inception was on TV, so I feel like I deserve extra points for processing the movie and putting together this gift. After the box was decorated, I just wrote all the notes- most of which are fond memories I share of growing up with my dad. I had bought a bag of randomly sized, colored paper from Michaels, too, which made the notes look a little more fancy and also had been cut down to size. I ended up making 52 so my dad can open one a week. Warning: This can be extremely fun to make and you may want to keep it for yourself by the end.

For my best friend Erin….

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I made Erin the same present as my dad except her box was very different. I bought a white cardboard one for her, and then spent forever cutting out quotes, cute pictures, and inspirational words to decorate the entire outside and inside walls of the box. The longest part of this project was arranging everything just so on each side of the box, especially on the top (because that has the biggest real estate and will be seen the most). I probably went through about 5 different layouts before deciding on one. This was done during the movie Elf, though, so my mind was a little more freed up than when I made my dad’s gift. Once I laid out all the magazine clippings, I painted Mod Podge ALL over the box to glue it down and create a finishing effect. It looked pretty awesome in the end. I used the same note paper to write Erin’s notes, and once again wrote 52 to make it last all year (though I did tease her that she wouldn’t be able to wait and I’d find her laying in a sea of opened notes, kind of like Monica opening all her wedding presents on Friends).

For my grandfather….

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My grandfather is extremely hard to shop for, so I had to enlist the help of 26 4th graders to put his gift together. We just finished reading Dear Mr. Henshaw the last week before break, and as a “final project,” each student wrote a letter to him telling about themselves and an aspect of the class. I took a picture of each student holding a “Hi Mr. Barr!” sign, too, so my grandfather could see all the cute kids who wrote the letters. I didn’t have time to do practically any editing, so the quotes from some of these letters are hilarious. For example:

“I’m ten years old. I bet you’re really old.”

“My name is Ethan. Do you like my handwriting?”

“Ms. Schrumpf teaches us a little bit too much social studies.”

“My brothers make fun of me. They tease me a lot, but life goes on.”

This was actually really easy to put together. I used a spare binder and some page protectors, had the kids paste their pictures on paper and decorate them like frames, and then stuck all the letters and pictures in the book side by side. And BAM. Present. I think if you’re a teacher, getting your class in on making a gift can be great- but only if you can tie it into a teaching objective (letter writing!). It’s a great way to share what you do with someone else!

For my brother-in-law….

grab and go popcorn

Dan is SO EASY to shop for because I can basically throw Dunkin Donuts gift cards at him and he’s ecstatic. However, Dan’s birthday is December 25th, so I run into the dreaded TWO PRESENT CONUNDRUM. Luckily, Dan and I share a love of fantasy movies, especially Lord of the Rings, that Katie isn’t really as into (and by not really into I mean doesn’t care at all). So, I made a homemade coupon in Dan’s Christmas card offering to take him to go see The Hobbit in any format (there are three ways to see it- basic, 3D, and 3D High Frame Rate) and a $10 snack budget. We went on New Year’s Day and saw the fancy 3D High Frame Rate one at the new and improved Downtown Disney Theater (I hadn’t been to the NOT Fork and Screen side in a long time and was very impressed with its multiple fancy snack bar choices and grab and go popcorn- as seen above). We’ve done movie outings together before (again-usually to the one’s Katie doesn’t care about). I know we saw Tron in IMAX 3D and some of the Harry Potter films, and it’s fun. Homemade coupons may be cheesy, but when a free movie outing is involved, they are golden.

So yes- gift giving this year was pretty awesome. I definitely had to step it up a notch to make up for the fact that I am poor, but it turned out to be really fun to put everyone’s gifts together (and go see The Hobbit!). Hope this gives you some DIY ideas for upcoming birthdays, mother’s and father’s days and the occasional anniversary : )

PS- For each of the kids in my class, I wrote a hand written card. I do this every year because I remember LOVING when a teacher wrote a heartfelt message that was unique to me. This takes me about four hours, but watching each kid read their fairly long message of encouragement, appreciation, and care is totally worth it. Plus, I always get a couple of cute notes back and I gain the trust of some of those hard to reach kids ; )

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2 Responses to “Tales of a Gift Giver: DIY Gifts for Any Occasion”

  1. I love the idea of writing in the margins of the book!

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