save money with homemade giftsEarlier in the year, I happened to look over my budget for last year and was shocked to see how much I’d spent on presents for birthdays and Christmas. Having made a big effort to tighten my belt in 2010, I knew that I just couldn’t justify spending the same amount again, but at the same time, I don’t want to look like a miser when I’m handing over the presents. My compromise has been to look into making my own gifts in the hope that the extra effort will save me some cash and still look like a great present. Here are some of the ideas that I'm putting into action in my quest to save a little bit more money:

Personalized Gift Sets

Gift sets of toiletries are often given to females based on the assumption that you can’t go wrong with bath stuff. I’ve been guilty of doing this myself on many occasions with no real thought for whether the recipient will actually use the contents. After an enlightening conversation with one particular friend, it dawned on me that I was effectively wasting my money by buying her gift sets when she was only ever going to use the shower gel (she’s not one for baths). With these gift sets not being particularly cheap unless you can get them when they’re on sale, I wanted to find a way to buy something that would be better received without breaking my meager gifts budget.

My solution has been to put together personalized gift sets of toiletries that I know the recipient will definitely use. Over the last six months or so, I’ve been taking advantage of in-store and online offers on toiletries like shower gels, bath foams, and body lotions, and putting them aside for gifts. The idea is that I’ll only buy items that I know will be used, and because I’ve spread the cost throughout the year, it’s a much more financially manageable way of doing things. Once I’ve got everything I want to include in the gift sets, I place the items in a large sheet of cellophane wrapping and scrunch the top together to create a gift package (sometimes with a pretty ribbon or bow to finish the look).

I recently got the chance to put this to the test with a friend’s birthday gift and she was thrilled that I’d taken the time to put together half a dozen items that she genuinely enjoys using. I was initially worried that she’d think that it looked cheap or tacky but this wasn’t the case at all.

Baking Yummy Treats

If you’re looking for a present for someone who’s got a sweet tooth, you could do worse than turn your hand to baking. Even if you’re not the best at this, you can still bake a batch of muffins or cookies and present them in a basket. Here are two great recipes:

Blueberry Muffins Recipe

This is the recipe that I followed for my trial attempt and it worked well, even for a less-than-expert cook!

You’ll need: 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup of white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, 1 egg, 1/3 cup of milk, 1 cup of fresh blueberries, 1/2 cup of white sugar, 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup of butter (cubed) and 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F/ 200 degrees C, and grease the required number of muffin cups (or use muffin liners).
  2. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour, 3/4 cup of white sugar, salt and baking powder, and mix together.
  3. Place vegetable oil in a measuring cup and add egg and milk. Add this to the above mixture and fold in the blueberries.
  4. Fill the muffin cups to the brim.
  5. Mix together 1/2 cup of white sugar, 1/3 cup of flour, 1/4 cup of butter ,and 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon to make a crumb topping and sprinkle over muffins before you put them in the oven.
  6. Bake for around 20-25 minutes.
Extreme Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

This is the recipe that I followed:

You’ll need: 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips, 6 tablespoons of butter (softened), 1 cup of white sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, 2 eggs and 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar.
  1. Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips over a low heat.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar.
  4. Add the melted chocolate chips and vanilla.
  5. Beat in eggs
  6. Add flour mixture and the remaining cup of chocolate chips.
  7. Wrap in plastic and freeze for around 20 minutes until the mixture becomes firm.
  8. Create small balls of around 1 inch and roll in the confectioners’ sugar.
  9. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees F/ 175 degrees C.
  10. Leave to cool.
These are a few of my ideas that really help to save money when buying presents, but there are lots more ideas that you can use if you’re good at crafts. What are your tips for saving money with homemade gifts? Have you ever tried any of the ideas discussed here?

(photo credit: Sarz.K)