Homemade gifts show an extra level of thought for the important people in your life. In many cases, making a gift is more cost-efficient than buying a gift, which is important if you’re on a strict student budget. They are also an easy way to make lots of gifts to give to your peers, co-workers or professors. Homemade gifts don’t need to be elaborate to be impactful, however. You may not have been born with a crafty gene, but you can still make homemade gifts that the people in your life will love.
Hot Chocolate Jar
When in doubt, food is always a good gift option. Around the holidays, hot chocolate is a gift that everyone can appreciate. Start with a jar ― 16 oz. is usually good size. Then, you can fill it with a pre-made hot chocolate powder or you can get a little fancy and make your own.
For homemade cocoa powder, you’ll need equal parts milk powder (or soymilk powder for your dairy-free friends), cocoa powder and powdered sugar. To achieve a DIY aesthetic, alternate layers of milk powder, cocoa powder and powdered sugar in the jar.
You can add whatever toppings and special touches you’d like. You could top off your jar with a layer of crushed candy canes, cinnamon or marshmallows (Dandies makes a vegan-friendly version of marshmallows). Finish off the jar with a ribbon, stickers and maybe a label with instructions on how to prepare the cocoa.
Homemade Cooking Extracts
Making extracts, such as vanilla extract, is easy, but you do need to plan ahead of time. Luckily, this is a “set it and forget it” kind of gift. First, you’ll want to gather the ingredients you want to extract, such as vanilla bean, mint leaves or citrus peels. Next, you’ll need alcohol to extract the essence from your chosen ingredients. You do not need anything fancy― cheap and clear is perfect. If you’re just extracting flavor from vanilla, you can use bourbon. Otherwise, you’ll want to go for some low-grade vodka.
Once you have your ingredients, you have a couple options. You can fill individual bottles with your ingredients and then top it off with alcohol, or you can make a large batch and fill smaller bottles later. Once you’ve added the alcohol, your extracts need to sit for at least three weeks, but preferably for six. Whether you remove your ingredients after they steep or leave them in the mix is up to you.
Finish up by adding labels to your bottles and advise your gift recipients to keep the extracts out of direct sunlight. Extracts work best with alcohol, but you can substitute the ingredient with three parts vegetable glycerine to one part water.
An easy way to add a personal touch to a gift is to decorate purchased or found items. You could paint the handles of kitchen utensils, make pedestal dishes out of plates and bowls from the thrift store or decorate a mug.
Sharpie becomes permanent on a ceramic mug when baked for 30 minutes at 350 Fahrenheit. You’ll want to put the decorated mug in the oven before it starts heating up and wait until the oven completely cools before taking the mugs out to avoid cracking.
You can also buy figurines of a favorite animal and paint them gold or silver. Remove a label from a candle and glue on your own homemade label. There are infinite ways to customize a gift to give it just a little something extra.
3D Printed Gifts
The Marriott Library and Salt Lake City Public Library both have 3D printers that you can use for personal projects. With 3D printing, you can literally make anything that you want while still having a homemade element. Some ideas include flower pots, picture frames, figurines, phone cases or keychains. Pricing for filament and printing time varies at each location, but typically you are charged per gram of filament used.
Homemade phone backgrounds are a super fun gift. They can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like them to be. If you’re comfortable with an editing program like Photoshop, then go for it. But you can also use something like Canva to make these. Canva is free and extremely user-friendly. There are paid options for photographs or illustrations provided by Canva, but they do have free options or you can import your own images. Regardless of method, you’ll want to make the image 1080 pixels wide by 1920 pixels tall to have optimal resolution on all devices or look up the dimensions if you know what phone you’re making the background for.
You can go with a simple image and a favorite quote or you could make a collage. It may help to know how someone uses their phone. If the person you intend to give the background to keeps a lot of apps on their home screen, a more simple background will probably work best for them. Also keep in mind that some phones allow you to use a different image for its lock screen, while others do not.