Gifts for Everyone Else

frugal gifts

In addition to bigger gifts, there are also all those little gifts for coworkers, neighbors, pastors, hostesses, and teachers. While I love to give these gifts, if I’m not careful, my overall spending on smaller gifts can really add up! With that in mind, here are my ideas for giving all those little gifts on a bare-bones budget:

DIY disguises – I’m thinking of making this fun kit from Life Your Way for a few gifts this year. It seems like a gift that someone with kids or a goofy sense of humor could have a lot of fun with.

DIY gifts

Homemade sugar scrub -You probably even have all the ingredients on hand already!

Coffee/Ice cream gift card – A little goes a long way at an ice cream shop or coffee shop.

Mug – Anthropologie’s monogrammed mugs are super cute (simple ones for $6 or floral ones for $8), but you can often find nice ones elsewhere too. My friend Hannah who works at anthropologie told me people often buy these as teacher gifts and they’re hardly ever returned.

Stationery – Make your own (you can check out my cards board on Pinterest for inspiration!) or check out a discount store like TJ Maxx.

Jarred mixes – You could give cocoa mix in a jar or cookie mix in a jar.

Magazine subscription – I posted about quite a few magazine subscriptions on my lists of frugal gifts for moms and dads, but some are budget-friendly enough to fall under this “little” gifts category – Better Homes and Gardens ($6) and Popular Science (only $5 now through Christmas!).

S’mores Kit – This idea came to me last night as we roasted marshmallows over a fire pit at our local Christmas lights festival. Package up a chocolate bar, marshmallows, and some graham crackers to give your recipients (& their families) a fun night.

Bouquet of flowers or a plant

Candles – Any candles would be nice, but these stamped ones are a fun way to transform plain (aka cheap) candles into something unique. I’ve had this pinned for almost a year, but just realized it’s a dead link :(. The picture does a good job telling how to do it, though!

diy gifts

Magnetic board – I made this DIY magnetic message board for $1.

Gourmet food – This year, we got my girls’ preschool teachers assorted Christmas snacks from Trader Joe’s. They ranged from $2-$5 each – my favorites included dark chocolate covered candy cane Joe-Joe’s (which are TJ’s version of Oreos) and dark chocolate shortbread stars.

Popcorn and a movie – Older movies are often available for just a few dollars in bargain bins at places like TJ Maxx or even at Target. You could package up a classic with a bag of popcorn for a fun movie night.

freeset global

Bracelets that set women free – I just read (on Oh Amanda) about Freeset — an awesome business with the goal to set women free from human trafficking. Freeset sells fair trade bracelets, bags, and t-shirts, all made by women in Kolkata, India who have been set free from human trafficking. If you purchase a set of 3 bracelets (made from recycled saris) for $12, you’ll also be helping support this awesome cause. (While you’re there, they have cute bags too!)

Paper plates – This is probably a better hostess gift than for a coworker and my husband thinks I’m crazy for including it, but seriously – Who can’t use more of these, especially during this busy month? If you give me paper plates, I’ll be cool with it (but Beach Dad might not be…)

Homemade goodies – This is my favorite gift to give friends. I seriously love baking and enjoy making a few different types of cookies to give to friends and neighbors. Actually, this will be fun – I’m going to make mine over the next week or so, so I’m going to declare next week “Dessert Week.” Unfortunately, I can’t share my treats with most of y’all in person, but I’ll post a bunch of dessert recipes next week in case you want to bake too. I’ll start with the most make-ahead friendly recipes (some can even be frozen!), so if you want to bake along, by the end of the week, you’ll also have a fun dessert plate ready to hand out. My plan is to make:

  • double chocolate magic bars
  • unbaked chocolate-oatmeal cookies
  • peanut butter fudge
  • mint brownies
  • sugar cookies (or maybe bars, we’ll see how things are going…)

Yum. If you have any favorite holiday treat recipes, I’d love for you to link them up here!

What other gifts for “everyone else” have you given/received? Would you like getting paper plates?

Please check out my other ideas for Giving Great Gifts on A Bare-Bones Budget and subscribe to stay up to date on my latest posts.

[This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through them, you’ll be helping to support Thanks!]

I’m linking to: Life as MomFive Days Five WaysShabby Nest, Fingerprints on the Fridge, and At the Picket Fence.


Clay Play

Once a week for two years in elementary school, I finished school and headed to the art room for “Clay Play”, a time to make all sorts of things out of clay.  I made pinch pots, coil pots, a mask, and even a castle out of clay and I absolutely loved it.  Clay is the only art medium I’ve ever really loved and I’ve been excited to introduce Beach Girl to it, so when I saw this air dry clay on back to school clearance at Target, I snatched it up.

air dry clay projects

For our first project, I taught her how to make a pinch pot and I think she might be a clay-enthusiast in the making.  She made 3 pinch pots – one for us and two to give as Christmas presents – and seemed to enjoy it as much as I do!

To teach her, I made my own pinch pot next to her and she watched each step and then did it on her own clay.

To make a pinch pot:

Roll the clay into a ball

Stick your thumb into the center and wiggle it down to almost touch the bottom.

air dry clay projects

Pinch around the edges until your pot takes shape.  Try to keep the sides thick enough that they’ll be fairly sturdy when they dry. If you pinch too much and get a hole, don’t worry. You can just smooth the clay together again, getting your hands a little bit wet if you need to.

The sweet little 3-year-old-sized finger prints that are left behind are my favorite part.

art activities for preschool

Let the pinch pot dry for a few days until it is rock hard throughout.  (We set ours on parchment paper to keep it from drying stuck to the counter.)

Once it’s dry, you can paint it with tempera, acrylic, or watercolor paints.  While it’s still wet, you could decorate it with stamps, beads, sequins, glitter, and more.

air dry clay projects

I think this will be a cute way to store hair clips, coins, or other miscellaneous little things that always end up on the dresser… and it makes a fun grandparent gift! (By the way, next week’s installment of Give Great Gifts on A Bare-Bones Budget is gifts for grandparents.  Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out!)

air dry clay projects

Fall Pinterest Challenge: Magnetic Message Board

craft ideas, a homemade gift

Last week, Young House Love announced their Fall Pinterest Challenge and I was excited to get crafting! Last Pinterest Challenge, I made this kindle case.  This time around, I wanted to make something that I could use as a budget-friendly gift and that would be super easy to craft (no tricky button holes this time!).  I decided to make a magnetic message board like this one from Cinnaberry Suite because I bought the cookie sheet a few months ago and just hadn’t gotten around to doing anything with it.

This craft was, indeed, super easy and, since I already had mod podge, paint, sandpaper, and scrapbook paper on hand, I only spent $1 on the cookie sheet (Gotta love the Dollar Tree!).  I think I actually worked on it for about an hour, plus some time waiting between coats for the paint and mod podge to dry.  Doesn’t get much easier than that.

After much deliberation, I decided to use fun bird-themed paper… and to keep it for myself, haha. I realized I’d be ruining someone’s surprise if I made their gift and posted it on my blog!

I didn’t want to have to mess with multiple layers of paper so chose one that looked interesting on its own.  And, since I didn’t want the message board to look completely like a cookie sheet, I decided to paint it before mod podging on the paper.

craft ideas, a homemade gift

I sanded the entire surface of the cookie sheet to rough it up a bit in hopes that the paint would stick better.craft ideas, a homemade gift

Usually, I tend toward more neutral/traditional colors in decorating, but I’ve been wanting to branch out into bolder colors, so figured this little message board would be a good opportunity. I mixed up green, blue, and white acrylic paints (because that’s what I had on hand) until the color matched one of the tones from the bird paper.

Next, I painted anywhere on the front of the cookie sheet that wouldn’t be covered by paper and let it dry overnight.

craft ideas, a homemade gift

The next night, I went to mod podge the paper. I just cut the paper to size, leaving a little border between the paper and the rim of the cookie sheet (the cookie sheet is taller than the 12″ piece of paper). I put the mod podge on the back of the paper and very, very carefully laid it on the cookie sheet, making sure to smooth out any bubbles. Then, I let it dry for a little bit before spreading a layer of mod podge on top of the paper and around the lip of the cookie sheet.

I did a few layers of mod podge, letting it dry a little between each layer, and then left it to dry for awhile.

As it dried, it looked absolutely terrible. It seemed like the mod podge was drying white over the paint and somehow, bumps appeared in the paper all over the place. I was thinking I’d have to trash my project and post about my total failure of a Pinterest challenge. But, somehow, the next morning, the paper looked perfectly flat and the mod podge dried clear, even on the paint. Woohoo! So, if you’re doing this project and it looks awful, take heart – it still might turn out okay!

craft ideas, a homemade gift

I’m pretty excited about how this turned out! I feel like I still see a cookie sheet when I look at it, but the colors are bright and fun, and hopefully I’ll get over it’s cookie sheet shape once it’s all set up in my kitchen.

You could drill holes in the top before you paint and then hang it by a ribbon (like this one), but I had an extra plate stand on hand, so am just using that. I’m going to use the leftover paper to make little coordinating magnets, but ran out of time for now.

craft ideas, a homemade gift

Mod podge is officially my favorite craft supply. There are so many fun things to do with it! What’s your favorite mod podge project? Tried anything on Pinterest lately? I’d love some more inspiration!

I’m thinking I’ll make another couple as Christmas gifts and you’ll be sure to see this gift idea in my “Give Great Gifts on A Barebones Budget” series soon!

To check out some other Pinterest-inspired fun, you can visit: Young House Love, Bower Power, Our Fifth House, and Ugly Duckling House. I’m also linking up to Homemade Ginger, Life as Mom, Feature Yourself Friday, At the Picket Fence, and Sundae Scoop.

Give Great Gifts to A Crafty Lady

I’ll confess – I have a weakness for fun craft supplies. Sometimes, I almost think it’s more fun to collect craft supplies than it is to actually craft. It’s definitely easier to shop for craft supplies with kids than it is to actually craft with them! Giving crafty gifts to someone who likes crafting can be a bit tricky, because it can be easy for craft supplies to turn into clutter… and crafting usually isn’t exactly a cheap hobby. But craft gifts are such fun gifts to give (and receive), I thought this would be an especially fun installment in my “Give Great Gifts on A Bare-Bones Budget” series. And, yes, I have had a blast brainstorming fun crafty gift for crafter

Here are some (mostly) budget-friendly gift ideas for the craft-loving lady in your life (or to add to your own wish list!):

Scrapbook embellishments – This works especially well if your scrapbooking gift recipient has been on a big trip or had a major life event (birth of a baby, maybe?) recently. Themed paper, stickers, and other embellishments that match the event are a great gift. I’m normally too cheap frugal to buy many scrapbook-specific embellishments for myself, but they make scrapbooking even more fun and my pages with embellishments look way better than my usual ones do. My sister and mother-in-law have both given me fun embellishments for my scrapbooks over the years and I’ve loved them! If you shop at Joann’s, Michaels, or AC Moore, make sure to check their websites before you shop – they often have coupons you can use in-store to get an even better deal.

Photo Prints – The cost of printing photos to use when scrapbooking can really add up! Consider giving a gift certificate to a photo printing company or website that publishes digital scrapbooks. Even $20 would print a lot of photos and take some expense out of this (fairly pricey) hobby.

Sewing patterns or books – My sister has sewed using a bunch of patterns from Made by Rae and they’re all super cute with clear instructions to follow. For a unique and helpful gift for the seamstress on your list, consider gifting a pattern or two from Made by Rae or from an Etsy seller. If you’d rather give a book with patterns, sewing tips, and project ideas, I have enjoyed reading through my copies of Oliver + S Little Things to Sew: 20 Classic Accessories and Toys for Children and Sew Hip (which includes a DVD). I’ve learned a lot reading these two books, but I’ve been too timid to try any of the projects just yet!

Classes – Speaking of my being too timid, if you know someone who likes to craft but would like to brush up on her skills a bit, a class (online or in-person) is a great gift! Here’s an idea for any dads out there: Giving your wives the time and money to take a crafting class of some sort without kids around will score you major brownie points. Beach Dad gave me this for my birthday and, while I haven’t actually done it yet, just knowing I’ll get to soon is a gift. As I’ve researched the various online classes, the best options I’ve found are all of the scrapbooking, photo-editing, and design classes from Jessica Sprague (everything on her site is gorgeous!); this home design course from Red Velvet; and Big Picture’s card-making class (or really any of their self-paced classes). I also found this helpful evaluation of online scrapbooking classes. As far as sewing classes, I’d rather do that in person than online, so I recommend you check out your local fabric store for their course offerings.

If you’ve ever taken an online course of some sort, I’d love to hear about it in the comments; I’m still deciding which one I’ll take!

Gift certificate – If you don’t feel comfortable signing someone else up for a class, consider giving a gift certificate to your local craft or fabric store. That way, your recipient has the flexibility to use the money toward a class or for supplies.

gift for crafter

Cake decorating kit – Beach Dad and Beach Girl got me this cake decorating kit for my first-ever Mother’s Day and I love it. The instruction booklet has helped me start learning how to decorate cakes and I use the supplies every birthday or holiday possible. I have so much fun with it and love decorating the cakes … and eating them. You could also throw in my recipes for the best ever chocolate cupcakes and icing or include a cake decorating class at your local craft store.

Watercolor Postcards – This set of blank postcards and water color paints from anthropologie looks like a lot of fun! It’s $20 and includes everything you need, or you could probably put together something similar for even less money if you had some time to spend on it.

Craft in A Box – If you’re feeling adventurous, browse Pinterest and find a craft you think your recipient might enjoy doing. Then, print out the tutorial (or give them the link) and provide them with all the supplies they’ll need to do it. For example, I made mod podged clipboards at MOPS recently and loved it! The project was fairly simple and the end-result was useful and fun. So, if you chose to give a “mod podged clipboard craft pack”, you could include this tutorial, a clipboard or two, some fun scrapbooking paper and stickers, a bottle of mod podge, and a sponge paintbrush. Package it all up and you have a great gift (and fun project for your gift recipient!) for under $10.

gift for crafterSilhouette or accessories – A few years ago, I bought the Silhouette craft-cutting machine and it’s helped me make all sorts of fun projects, including cupcake toppers for Beach Girl’s birthday parties. If you’re not familiar with the Silhouette, it works basically like a printer except instead of printing ink on the page, it cuts out the shapes that you’ve designed on the computer using their easy-to-use software. The Silhouette starter pack
costs about $270, but is one of those more expensive gifts that I think is really worth the money if you’re feeling extra generous! I have an older version and love it, but the new version – the Cameo – looks super awesome. It can even cut fabric! If your recipient already has a Silhouette, you can get her some accessories like the Silhouette sketch pens, Silhouette Pick Me Up Tool, or QuicKutz Adhesive Vinyl (each of these accessories is about $10). Beach Dad has gotten me all of those as gifts before and they make using the Silhouette even more fun!

Young House Love’s new bookYoung House Love is one of my favorite blogs. It’s filled with all sorts of great ideas for home decor and other DIY/crafty ideas, and they’re coming out with a book next month. I can’t wait! I think any crafty lady would love to read Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love.

Handmade gift – Crafty ladies always like receiving crafty gifts too. You could make her something like the mod podge clipboards or this cute upcycled jewelry hanger yourself or check out etsy or a local craft show for a handmade gift.

gift craft

Cookie decorating supplies – Last Valentine’s Day, my friend Toni and I made these gorgeous (and yummy!) cookies following Bake at 350‘s instructions. It was surprisingly easy and really, really fun. If you’ve never seen her website, check out this cookie index. Every single cookie she makes is gorgeous! But to make these beauties, you need a few unique ingredients and tools. As a super fun gift, you can provide your recipient with Bake at 350’s recipe for Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing as well as everything she’ll need to make them – meringue powder, AmeriColor soft gel paste food color, and Wilton decorating squeeze bottles (I’d get 2 sets of these bottles, so she can decorate with 4 colors at once). The whole gift will cost about $36 and will set her up to make lots and lots of beautiful cookies. This is one of those things I’d never buy myself ($36 is a pretty big upfront cost to me!), but would love to use if someone else gave it to me… the perfect type of gift! Also- I just saw that Bake at 350 came out with a book with all her cookie ideas – Decorating Cookies: 60+ Designs for Holidays, Celebrations & Everyday ($10.31). *Swoon*

Phew! Now, I feel inspired to go do something crafty… or at least to shop for some fun supplies!

[Note: I included prices for some of these items, but they’re subject to change. If you purchase through my amazon affiliate links, you’ll be helping to support Thanks!]

I hope these gift ideas help you find the perfect gift for the crafty lady in your life… or maybe help you write your own wishlist. I know I’ll be having Beach Dad read this post too haha! Check out the other lists I’m making for “Give Great Gifts on a Barebones Budget” and subscribe to stay up to date!

Do you have any gift ideas for ladies who like to craft? I’d love to hear from you!

Linked to: Life as Mom, Feature Yourself Friday, 5 Days 5 Ways, At the Picket Fence, The Shabby Nest, Sundae Scoop, and Naptime Crafters.

Repurposing a Crib Bumper

easy sewing projects
Has anyone else ever wondered when you’re supposed to use the crib bumper that’s included in all the cute coordinated crib bedding sets?  Some people warn against using a crib bumper with newborns because babies can get entangled in it.  Others recommend avoiding the crib bumpers with older babies because they can use the bumpers to lift themselves higher in their escape attempts.  After I got my super cute bedding set, I realized there’s not really a time that is “safe” to use the bumper.  But, I really liked the look of the pink and brown matching set and especially love tulips, so wanted to find something to use it on.

When Beach Baby was born, I came up with a great solution.  I repurposed the crib bumper to serve as a teething bumper along the top of the crib rail. We’d tried other store-bought brands of crib teething guards and they didn’t work at all.  Our crib is heavily marked up from Beach Girl’s teething days and I was hoping we could avoid any further damage with Beach Baby… and I got a cute crib accessory to boot!

This is seriously the easiest sewing project possible (no button holes required!).  The crib bumper comes ready to repurpose (it even already has straps to tie it onto the crib!) and has worked perfectly for us for over a year now.

Here’s how to make your own crib bumper turned teething guard:

First, hold the crib bumper up to the top railing of the crib to get the proper length.  I kept one of the finished ends intact so that I could sew as little as possible and use the straps that were already there.

easy sewing projects

Cut the crib bumper to the right length, cutting an extra amount of batting out from the inside so that it doesn’t get bulky at the end.

easy sewing projectsIf there aren’t straps at the unfinished end of your teething bumper, cut straps off from an unused part of the crib bumper.  Then, sew them onto the very end of your new teething bumper with the top pieces of the straps inside the crib bumper.

Fold the ends in so they look finished and then stitch up the side. This doesn’t need to look very pretty because it will be flush up against the crib post.

Tie your new crib teething rail on tightly and you’re done!easy sewing projects

I still have 2/3 of the crib bumper left; any ideas for how to use the rest of it?

Homemade Activity Bags… and a sneak peek!

With 3 months left until Christmas, it might sound pretty crazy to start thinking about Christmas presents already. But, especially with my family’s low gift-giving budget and high number of gifts to give, I like to start planning for Christmas as early as possible.

With that in mind, I’m excited to announce a series I’ll be starting at at the beginning of October — Give Great Gifts on a Barebones Budget. Check back next week or subscribe to find out more details, but if you’re looking to give the people you love meaningful and useful gifts without breaking the bank, then this series is for you.

For now, I’m going to share one of my favorite homemade gift ideas for children — activity bags.

activity bags

If you’re not familiar with activity bags, the idea is that each bag provides everything you need for a child to complete a certain activity. Depending on the ages of children and contents of the bags, these “busy bags” can be great ways to entertain (and educate) children when mom is sick, driving, or busy teaching other children.

I made my first activity bags with my MOPS group a couple years ago and Beach Girl has had hours and hours of fun with her assorted bags. We’ve also had fun making activity bags together for her to give her friends or cousins as birthday and Christmas gifts.

When I make these activity bags, I use Ziplock bags with the zipper closure (so younger children can open and close them easily) and usually stick a piece of cardstock in the bag to help give it some structure. Before filling the bag, I write the name and any instructions on the outside of the bag. As I’m sure you’re aware, you shouldn’t leave your children alone with these bags because they’re a suffocation hazard and some of the contents are chokable.

These are 5 of our favorite activity bags that would make great gifts, all of them using supplies you probably have on hand or can buy at the Dollar Tree:

Paperclips and Straws:

activity bags

  •  about 15 paperclips, opened up so they have two separate loops, as pictured above.
  •  about 25 straws

To link the paperclips and straws together, insert one loop of a paperclip into one end of a straw. Link them up to form various shapes.

Yarn and Sandpaper:

activity bags

  • Sheets of sandpaper
  • Yarn, cut to various lengths

Use the yarn to make shapes and designs on the sandpaper. The sandpaper holds the yarn in place, making this a great activity for the car or a restaurant!

Paper and Clips:

activity bags

  • 6 differently colored pieces of paper, cut into small rectangles.
  • 36 paperclips – 6 of each color to match the paper rectangles.

Laminate the pieces of colored paper if possible (you can use clear contact paper or DIY laminating sheets for this). To do the activity, lay out the colored rectangles and sort the paperclips according to color. Clip the paperclips onto the rectangles. (Honestly, when we made this one at MOPS, it sounded pretty boring to me, but this has been one of Beach Girl’s favorites. She loves getting to clip on the paper clips!)

Foam Stickers:

activity bags

  • Half sheets of paper
  • Foam stickers

Something about foam stickers makes sticker time even more fun! I found foam shapes with sticky backs at the Dollar Tree, but if you can’t find that, just include regular foam shapes and a glue stick.

Tissue Collage:

activity bags

  • Tissue paper in assorted colors, cut into approximately 2-inch squares
  • Construction paper
  • Wax paper
  • Glue stick

Glue the tissue paper onto construction paper or wax paper to make a colorful collage. The wax paper collages look cool hanging in a window.


I hope y’all have fun making these bags! Do you have any ideas for activity bags or other homemade gift ideas for children?

This post is linked up to Simple Kids, Hip Homeschool, A Round Tuit, Life as Mom, The Shabby NestNo Time for Flashcards, & I Heart Naptime.

Make sure to subscribe or check back next week so you don’t miss out on how to Give Great Gifts on A Bare-Bones Budget!

Update: You can check out my series here – Give Great Gifts on a Bare-Bones Budget.

Homemade Playdough Recipe

Homemade Playdough Recipe

We made playdough with friends the other day and it reminded me how much I love our homemade playdough recipe. For one, it’s a lot of fun to let Beach Girl help “cook” her own batch – especially if she gets to try and make it her “fav-or-ite cul-lah”, purple. But even more than that, I really appreciate knowing that if when my kids sneak a little playdough “snack”, they’re not ingesting anything all that bad. (What is it about playdough that compels kids to eat it?)

Here’s the recipe we use, which is based off of this one from Simple Mom:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tablespoon oil
  • 1tsp lemon juice (The original recipe calls for 1/2tsp cream of tartar, but we don’t usually have that in the house. Lemon juice seems to work well as a substitute.)

Mix everything in a saucepan over low heat until it gets doughy. Then take it out and knead it on a floured surface until it cools down. Break it up into pieces for as many colors as you want, then add few drops of food coloring to each lump and work the color in.

Hand it off to your kids and let the rolling of the logs/worms/snakes commence!

To store our playdough, I wrap each color in Saranwrap and store them in a plastic Ziplock bag in the refrigerator.  This makes a great activity for those stir-crazy, hot summer days.