OPINION: Simple DIY gifts to make on a college student’s budget

Chocolate spoons as an example of an easy to make gift or snack for the holidays. (Archive photo by Dene Dryden | Collegian Media Group)

As the holiday season approaches, a great way to give back to the people we love in our lives is through a gift, especially one that we made ourselves. However, not many college students have the time or money to spend on an elaborate “do it yourself” gift for every roommate, parent and friend. Here are some easy ways to create a unique gift without breaking the bank.

1. Hot chocolate spoons

Creating a set of hot chocolate stirrers is an easy and cute gift for anyone from your little siblings to your grandparents. Pick up some wooden disposable spoons from Hobby Lobby, melt some chocolate candy and dip the tip of the spoon in. While the spoons are laying on wax paper to let the chocolate harden, take them to the next level by coating them with candy cane crumbles or a drizzle of caramel. Hot chocolate spoons bring a little extra novelty to a classic cup of hot chocolate.

2. Mug gift set

Another option is to create a gift set around the idea of winter drinks. Mugs and instant cocoa and cider mixes can be purchased at Dollar Tree. Throw together a mug, some drink mixes and a candy cane or two to make an easy holiday gift for a roommate or a coworker.

3. Custom mug

Take the mug gift set one step further by customizing a plain white mug with geometric designs or an inspirational quote. Write on the mug with a Sharpie pen, then seal the work by placing it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I suggest not heating the oven until you put the mug in, as the ceramic can crack when there is a rapid change in temperature. Same goes for cooling the oven; let your mug cool down in there, too.

4. Shattered CD picture frame

Want to get rid of your old Jonas Brothers CDs that you never listen to anymore? While I personally would never want to give up my collection, a great way to recycle your old CDs is to cut them into small pieces and super glue them around the edges of a picture frame, shiny silver side out. Trim the excess CD off the sides for a smooth look. Complete this dazzling gift with a picture of you and your best friend together, or a personal piece of artwork.

5. Custom holiday serving plates

If you are more of a baker than a crafter, a great way to give a batch of cookies as a gift is on a personalized plate. Obtain a large, clear glass plate and coat the bottom side with Mod Podge. When it’s still wet, place a large piece of fabric (a fat quarter should be enough) on the back of the plate, with the fabric’s design showing through the top of the plate. Seal the back of the plate with more Mod Podge and trim the excess fabric off the sides of the plate. Now you have a beautiful serving plate customized with the holiday fabric of your choice.

6. Box of chocolates

If you’re giving a gift to someone with a sweet tooth, an easy but creative option is to make a custom box of chocolates. Walmart sells candy molds and candy melts in an assortment of colors and flavors such as vanilla and chocolate. Simply place the candy melts in the mold and microwave until mostly melted. Swirl in other ingredients like peanut butter, fruit preserves or cinnamon to incorporate more flavor, then chill the candies until solid. Gift your chocolates in mini cupcake liners for an extra touch. You’re basically Russell Stover.

7. Rolled newspaper snowman ornaments

Put those old issues of the Collegian you’ve been stashing in your backpack to good use. Roll up strips of newspaper or magazine paper into thin spirals, sealing each individual strip in a circular shape with glue. Glue three of the rolled paper circles together to make a snowman. Attach a loop of string to the back side with glue and you’ve got a homemade Christmas tree ornament or holiday decoration for a dorm room.

8. Recycled snow globe

Another great way to use materials you already own is to make a snow globe. Clean a clear glass jar, removing the label so the glass is clear. Take a small plastic toy or figurine that fits on the inside of the jar lid and secure it there with super glue. While that dries, fill the jar with water and an ample amount of glitter, leaving enough room for the figurine to fit. With the figurine attached to the bottom of the lid, line the inside rim of the lid with super glue and twist it onto the jar. When the glue dries, flip the jar upside down, and like magic, you have a homemade snow globe!

9. Carved candle

A creative way to spread winter warmth is with a custom candle. Purchase a wide, plain white candle without a jar or container and carve a quote or design in the wax with a sharp utensil. When your design is carved and cleaned of stray wax, color the design in with a metallic marker. A little bit of artistry can go a long way with this project.

10. Homemade sugar scrub

If your gift recipient needs to treat themselves to some rest and relaxation, make them a personalized sugar scrub. The basic ingredients are a cup of white sugar, a quarter cup of olive oil and a few drops of essential oil. Mix it all up, package it in a jar and gift it with a pair of fuzzy socks to seal the deal.

Dene Dryden is the chief copy editor for the Collegian and a sophomore in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

I'm Dene Dryden, and I graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor's of Arts in English. Before graduating, I worked at the Collegian for more than three years as a copy chief, managing editor and editor-in-chief. I also served a term on the Collegian Media Group Board of Directors. While at K-State, I also worked at Wildcat 91.1 FM. My cat Robyn is the light of my life, and I take compliments in the form of coffee.