10 Christmas gifts for cash-strapped students
Even on a student budget, and with a few more weeks until your next student loan payment comes through, there’s no need to be a scrooge at Christmas. Homemade gifts will keep your costs down and mean much more to your friends and family than something you bought in a shop. Here are 10 DIY presents that are really easy to make and way more exciting than socks.
1. Chalkboard mug
Mugs you can write messages on – what could be more merry than that? You can buy these ready-made, but they couldn’t be easier to make yourself. Get some plain coloured mugs from your local supermarket and chalkboard paint from a craft shop or online. Make sure the mug is clean so the paint will adhere, then use masking tape to mark out the area you want to fill in. Be creative! Apply several thin layers of paint and leave to dry for 24 hours. Remove the tape and place your mug in a cold oven. Set the oven to 300F (150C). When the temperature reaches 300F, leave it to bake for 35 minutes. Then remove the mug and allow it to cool. Gift your mug with some coloured chalk and a pre-written message.
2. Memory jar
This present will put a smile on someone’s face for many months to come. Simply get your hands on a large jar and fill it with meaningful photos or memories written on rolled up pieces of paper. You could even add tickets to gigs you both went to, coins from foreign countries you’ve visited, and anything else that takes you back to the good times you’ve had together.
3. Hidden compartment book
How about a quirky place to store secrets for your more mysterious mates? Pay a visit to a charity shop and pick up some hardback books with great cover designs. Wrap the cover and first few pages in cling film (this will protect them during the glue stage). Then use a Stanley knife to cut a hole into the unwrapped pages. Next, mix PVA glue with water, so it’s good and runny, and stick the last page to the back cover. Coat the top and sides of the unwrapped pages to stick them together. Let the glue dry and repeat the process twice. Remove the cling film and you’re done.
4. Christmas kirby grips
We guarantee these homemade hair accessories will go down a treat on Christmas day. Just fix ribbon rosettes, the kind you’d use to decorate wrapped up presents, to the straight side of kirby grips with a glue gun. If that’s not glam, we don’t know what it. Now the whole house can enjoy beautifully festive locks while tucking into their turkey – kinda silly, but also supremely sweet.
5. Teacup candles
This idea is great for friends who love the vintage look. Either source some dainty teacups and saucers from charity shops or buy them inexpensively on eBay. You’ll need wax (beeswax, paraffin or soy will all work), wax wicks, essential oils and candle dye (these are optional), and wooden skewers. Melt the wax in a double-broiler (a small pot in a larger pot of hot water). When the wax is liquid, leave it to cool a little before adding scent or dye. Use a thermometer to check the temperature and add these at the 180-degree mark. Then place your wick in the centre of the teacup, supported by two wooden skewers. Pour in the wax and let it set for five to six hours.
6. Chilli oil
You don’t need to have any cooking skills to make chilli oil. And it’s a delicious present that people will actually use. Just warm olive oil gently in a saucepan before adding chilli flakes and whole chillies. Heat for another three to four minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the oil cool slightly. Strain into a sterilised, sealable glass bottle or jar. Add dried chillies from the pan and seal. The oil will keep in the fridge for one week, so make it just before you plan to gift it.
7. Chocolate truffles
Everyone loves chocolate! Truffles only have three ingredients – dark chocolate, cream and unsalted butter – and they make a great gift packed up in little boxes. Start by chopping 300g of good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) into small pieces. Then put 300ml of cream and 50g of butter into a saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts and the cream reaches simmering point. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the chocolate until the mixture is smooth. You can add flavouring now, too. Try vanilla extract or a dash of dark rum. Leave in the fridge for four hours and then use a melon baller dipped in hot water to make perfect shaped truffle. Place each ball on greaseproof paper and dust with your toppings of choice, from simple cocoa powder to crushed pistachio nuts.
8. Clementine wreaths
This gift is both super cute and super cheap. You’re welcome. For one wreath, you’ll need seven clementines, cellophane wrap (you can buy this by the roll), sticky tape, twine and ribbon. Lay out an 8-inch-wide strip of cellophane and line the clementines up along the length of it, leaving a gap in between each one. Fold the cellophane over the fruit – like you’re wrapping a present – and tape together at intervals. Tie a piece of twine in between each clementine. Twist your clementine line-up into a circle and tape the ends together. Tie a pretty bow – and voila!
9. Lip balm
Now you can be the saviour of your friends’ dry lips this winter. We discovered this brilliant homemade lip balm recipe that is soothing and moisturising and very easy to whip up. All you need is:
--2 tbsp coconut oil
--1 tbsp grated cocoa butter
--1/4 tsp vitamin E oil (or 3 punctured, squeezed out vitamin E capsules)
--3 drops rose essential oil (optional)
On a very low heat, melt the coconut oil in a small stainless steel bowl. When the oil is liquid, add cocoa butter and stir until melted. Remove from the heat, add vitamin E oil and your essential oil and stir well. Transfer to a small container and leave to set somewhere cool for three hours. Mistletoetastic!
10. Personalised scrabble art
Use scrabble pieces to spell out a personalised message for each of your friends. Then glue the words to a piece of backing card and pop the card into a frame. Now your loved ones have an original piece of art made by your very own fair hands. Nice work, Picasso.