All I want for Christmas: 10 DIY gift ideas for the holidays

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This year’s Christmas calls for warmth — in the form of homemade gifts that save on time and money but do not scrimp on sentimental and practical value. Here are 10 gift ideas you can make on your own because, as always, it’s the thought that counts. Illustration by MIKAELLA JOAQUIN

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — In times like these, it feels like the last thing anyone wants to think about would be what they want for Christmas, let alone what to get everyone else. After a year like 2016, we all just need a well deserved break — and maybe to be reminded of what’s important, what’s good, and what truly matters. For others, however, maybe it’s just a classic case of realizing that the holidays are fast approaching and that December has crept up almost unannounced, and now they’re in a tailspin trying to figure out what to do with their to-gift list.

Whether you’re on the side of the former or the latter, you might have some use for some festive creativity that saves both time and money without scrimping on sentimental and practical value. Below are some ideas for gifts you can make in your own home.

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Sharpie mugs

The simplicity is almost too good to be true, and the results are minimalist perfection. Just take any plain white (or lightly colored) mug and write or draw on it using Sharpie or other permanent markers of choice. You can try a monogram of your recipients’ initials, a favorite quote or affirmation, or even a meta illustration of a cup of coffee. Darkly colored mugs aren’t off the table, either — just use metallic markers.

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Recipe jars

This will delight both the home cooks and the culinarily challenged alike. Particularly popular for cookies, but also useful for hot chocolate and other holiday sweets, recipe jars typically hold dry ingredients stacked one on top of the other, making for a visual delight thanks to the mix of colors and textures. Once the mason jar is sealed, it can be decorated using glitter glue, plastic gems, felt cut-outs, and ribbon. Tie a card with the full recipe using twine around the neck to complete.

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Homemade bath bombs

It might seem like a long time ago that Twitter and Instagram obsessed over people taking videos of their color-changing bathtubs, but it’s undeniable that Lush mania remains. Gather and combine the ingredients (usually baking soda, citric acid, corn starch, fine grained Epsom salts, essential oils, water, coconut oil, and food coloring) before pressing them into your chosen molds and letting them dry. They can be further customized using dried flowers, sprinkles, and glitter, among others.


Custom pins and rings

Ring backs and pin backs can be ordered in bulk from local craft stores, and they can be superglued onto anything that strikes your fancy. Rings can be made out of Scrabble and other game pieces, recycled keys from your keyboard, large beads, buttons, and craft and scrapbook embellishments. For homemade brooches, you can use decoupaged or painted wood cutouts. Shrink plastic and bottle caps are also good to keep in mind.

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Personalized phone case

Any clear, plain phone case can be transformed into a reflection of what your giftee’s all about using the most basic and easy-to-come-by materials and methods: paint, magazine cutouts, images of their favorite band, stickers, felt, beads, googly eyes, plastic gems, permanent markers, glitter…. Basically anything that floats your boat can help protect your phone. You can even turn it into a fun activity that’s an excuse to spend an entire afternoon together.

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Memory matchbox

Decorate a matchbox however you want and fill it with your favorite tiny mementos that you associate with the person receiving it, such as pictures, ticket stubs to the concert that changed your lives, and even a miniature booklet containing a brief collection of your best moments or a poem they love. You can use letter beads to spell out their name, or paint the matchbox all in black and turn it into a small planetarium. And if you’re particularly creative, that matchbox can even become a space for a full-fledged diorama.


Picture mobile

An embroidery hoop can become a mobile in minutes using twine or string and a bunch of photos or Instax prints you’ve selected. (Pegs can be used so the photos can easily be changed.) You can also grab any good, sturdy twig or set of twigs and spray-paint them. Make sure you hang the mobile from a wire or something equally able to support the weight. If photos aren’t your thing, they can easily be replaced with colorful origami or maybe cardboard clouds.

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EL wire neon sign

With some metal wire, EL wire, and glue gun, you can make an instant portable neon sign that will go great on your loved one’s bedroom wall. Draw, write, or trace your desired design on a large surface and shape the metal wire around it. When you’re done, use the glue gun to attach the EL wire onto the metal, following the design you’ve made. (Make sure you have enough of both wires! Get more than a couple of feet’s worth to be sure.) The EL wire comes with a battery pack that can turn the “neon” sign on or off.

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Physical Spotify playlist

Back in the day, we just called these mix CDs (and even further back, of course, they were mixtapes). We all know how it goes: just make a playlist based on a certain theme — the holidays, or songs that remind you of your recipient — and burn it onto a blank CD. The best part, however, comes in during the creation of the packaging. You can make your own CD sleeve, or just an insert or booklet for a plastic case. Make a collage, draw something, write a letter, anything goes. Some stores cell circular labels you can stick on the disks so they’ll match the cover art, but if you can’t find any, stickers and permanent markers will do.


A corkboard you can write on

A good few coats of chalkboard paint can add massive points to the functionality of any corkboard, and as a bonus, it also turns the surface black, which makes the board look sleeker and cooler. Place the corkboard onto a large frame, add some cute tacks and colored chalk in the mix, and it’s a guarantee that the person you give it to will have no choice but to get his or her life together.