Christmas Gift in female hands

Meaningful DIY Gifts That Cost About $5 to Make

Here we are just a few weeks before Christmas. For many, panic is setting in as time is short, but money is even shorter. I have good news for you: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to show those you love how much they mean to you.

Best DIY Gift Ideas

Here are three of my favorite ideas for DIY gifts that are certain to hit the mark for giftees of all ages! Each one will take a bit of time on your part, and less than $5 in supplies.

1. Personalized Directional Signs

Create a gift set of directional signs pointing to your giftee’s favorite places. It might include a college, amusement park, hometown, beach, or other location, place on his or her bucket list—anywhere in the world to be hung on a wall, planted in a garden, or standing on a porch.

DIY directional signs

Photo credit:

This is so much fun requiring only a bit of research, pointed wooden stakes, and paint or paint pens.

First, figure out how many miles between your person’s home and favorite locations using a website like this to give you the distance between two places. Now get creating!

You can buy pointed wood stakes already cut to size in lengths from around 6-in. to 18-in. for just a few bucks. Bundles come in packs of 12, 24, 50, or 100. See how many gifts you could make from a single pack?

You can get wooden garden stakes or “plant tags” from Home Depot, Lowes, and Walmart. Look in the garden and patio departments. Or you can find them online at Walmart and Amazon in various sizes and finishes. These stakes will not be highly finished, and that’s good. The rustic look is what makes this gift fun and unique.

Let your imagination run wild. Search Etsy for more ideas.

2. Instagram Photo Album


Portrait Of Couple Looking At Photo Album

This is a fabulous idea for your friend or relative who is active on Instagram. Take screenshots from that person’s feed of the images that you find to be the most fun and or meaningful. Print them, and put them into a nice photo album.

One option for quality, quick and cheap prints is the Walmart photo app for Android and iPhone. Now you can print at any Walmart in-store photo kiosk for about 10 cents apiece. Arrange them in a photo album from the dollar store. What a great gift!

3. Journal in a Jar

This unique DIY gift requires a traditional Mason-type canning jar plus a gift pack, which I will explain in a bit.

The idea is to give everything your recipient needs to write the story of his or her life, including appropriate and specific questions like:

  • Why was your name chosen for you?
  • What was happening in the world when you were born?
  • Describe your favorite hiding place as a child.
  • Where is your favorite hiding place as an adult?
  • What is your personal secret to happiness.

You can include as many questions or prompts as you like, even 365, printed on paper, cut apart, and loaded into the jar to make it easy for your person to pull out one per day, and write about it.

Include a gift pack—a nice blank book or writing paper, an appropriate binder, and a pen. The point is to have our gift include everything required to get started. If your recipient is computer savvy, include an appropriate size binder that will fit standard printed pages.

When I first came up with this idea years ago, I found it a terrific gift idea for a parent or grandparent. But then it dawned on me this could be adapted for any age, even a child just learning to read, write and draw.

Make it fun by including questions you know will make the person laugh because the answers are so hilarious.

Of course, every Jar Gift needs a recipe or instruction card tied to it. Here’s an idea:

Recipe for Your Life History

Combine a generous slice of your life history, a dash of nostalgia, several cups of facts and feelings, and [the number you come up with] deliciously interesting questions. Draw one slip of paper. Take a few minutes to enjoy the memories. Paste or write the question at the top of a blank page. Fill in your answer. Don’t worry about your handwriting or spelling—just tell your story. The purpose of this gift is to help you preserve a written account of your life. Enjoy the homemade memories that celebrate you!

Gifts in a Jar 3D Hardcover

Journal in a Jar is not a gift you can make on Christmas Eve. Start now.

Lots more questions!


To help you get started, I have written hundreds of questions for all ages in my eBook, Gifts in a Jar, beginning on page 42. Click to download. My DIY gift to you!


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6 replies
  1. Marsha Lane says:

    Mary, these sre fantastic ideas!!! I like them and hope to put them to use! Thanks for the work you do that makes US look good to others! ; You are THE best!

  2. Dorothea says:

    My husband and I are gifting our neighbors this Christmas with homemade sourdough bread. It’s cheap but delicious! We bake 2 loaves at a time. Sam’s Club sells a 25 lb bag of bread flour for $7. The other ingredients are water and sourdough starter.

  3. Robin says:

    Although the cost is usually well over $5.00. every year my mom would make us a kit, such as baking or sewing or whatever we were into. It was great as it could be one present or many. The year my son moved out I made him a brownie kit with pans, mixes and oil all as one gift.The year I got a sewing kit, the sewing basket was one gift and accessories were another. I think I probably got that sewing kit 40+ years ago but I still remember it because it was the perfect gift for me that year. Some other ideas are doctor kits, smoothie kits (blender included), craft kits, drawing kits, science kits, dinner kit (meat, potatoes, side, salad, whatever the person likes) the possibilities are endless. If you start early you can spread out the cost as well.


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