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Gifting on a Budget: 4 Cheap DIY Gift Ideas to Explore!

Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Christmas — wondering what to give during each season of giving usually presents us with a headache. Stuffed toys or stationery seem too generic, while most ‘unique’ or personalised gifts are either highly impractical or burn a hole in your wallet. The perfect present is an engineered blend of originality, pragmatism, and, preferably, frugality. After all, if you’re a broke university student like me, you’ve probably realised that we can’t be spending a hundred dollars on every gift.

Don’t let all these worries keep you from experiencing the joy of giving. A great way to get the best of all three is to simply make your own gift!

Perhaps you’re concerned because you’ve hardly dabbled in arts and crafts, and it would be much easier to simply order a gift from a store. Speaking from personal experience, a handmade and personalised gift often means a lot more to the recipient. Plus, you get to feel the satisfaction of making something from scratch for someone you love.

Read on for some cheap and simple ways to DIY gifts!

Scrunchies

If, like me, you vehemently believed that scrunchies were ugly, you undoubtedly were a victim of the "not like other girls" phenomenon. If ridding yourself of internalised misogyny and endless Pinterest scrolling was what convinced you otherwise, then this one's for you.

Scrunchies are my hair tie (or wrist accessory) of choice as they can spice up any outfit. Fair warning, this method involves sewing, by hand or machine, but in a straight easy line. All you require is a strip of fabric (you can reuse pieces leftover from a previous DIY project or cut up a shirt you don’t wear anymore), a hair tie (or an elastic tied in a loop), needle and thread, and this tutorial.

Estimated cost: 0$ if you use old fabric and existing supplies 

Estimated time: ≤ 1 hour for beginners

Bead Jewellery

Extend your love for 90’s style by foraying into beaded jewellery, and you might find yourself nostalgic about the last time you beaded plastic pearls and hearts on fishing wire. 

The possibilities are endless: string together a simple candy-coloured line of beads, the daintiest little daisies or even more complex cherries and bumblebees into a mask chain, ring, necklace or a bracelet. You could make a girls’ night out of it and hand make matching jewellery for each other. Watch this video to learn how to make delicate beaded rings and this one for pretty bracelet techniques.

All the supplies you need for a beading night can be found on Shopee or even Spotlight, but my personal recommendation would be Beads and Crafts (#02-59, People’s Park Complex) nestled cosily in a far corner of a dilapidated mall in Chinatown.

Pro tip: the shop’s owners are super helpful, especially for picking the thickness of the thread and the size of beads!

Estimated cost: ≤ $6 for 2-3 packets of beads and string

Estimated time: ≤ 30 mins for beginners

Crochet coaster

Plenty of homegrown crochet businesses are popping up all over Instagram, selling adorable handmade plushies, accessories and bags. If you’re a crochet novice, fret not! The materials are cheap, the skill is easy to pick up, and perhaps the easiest practical gift you can make is a handy crocheted coaster.

All you have to get is your yarn of choice (there are plenty of textures, colours and materials to explore) and a crochet hook (recommended size for beginners: 3.5 mm or 5.0 mm). Yarn is usually sold in skeins, which are those ‘balls’ of yarn you see in the sewing aisle at Daiso. A coaster requires much less than one skein of yarn to make, which means you only need to buy one if you’re just starting out.

These materials are easily found at Daiso or Spotlight, and you can get even more options by shopping online at Shopee or AliExpress. Check out The Spruce Crafts’ guide to basic crochet stitches, and their compilation of crochet coaster ideas!

Your friends will love this cute addition to their desk setup, all while protecting their tables from pesky coffee or water rings.

Estimated cost: ≤ $4 for one skein of yarn and one crochet hook.

Estimated time: ≤ 30 mins for beginners, or around 20 minutes once you become more experienced.

Homemade earrings

For the girls who love to accessorise with jewellery, making custom earrings for them is easier than it sounds! By using charms, resin, or even shrink plastic, there are endless possibilities to the kinds of earrings you can make. This makes it a great personalised gift idea.

You’ll need earring hooks (available in lots of 50 or 100 on Shopee or AliExpress), small pliers, preferably jewellery pliers (available at Daiso), and small jump rings (available in lots on Shopee or AliExpress)

To top it off, you can attach shrink plastic charms, UV resin charms, or simply buy a bag of pre-made charms (available in lots on Shopee or AliExpress). Get creative! Almost any everyday item can be made into jewellery — simply punch a hole in it and slip a little jump ring through. Attach it to an earring hook or chain to create your very own personalised accessory.

Estimated cost: ≤ $8, depending on what kind of charms you want to attach.

Estimated time: 10 min to an hour, depending on whether you are making charms from scratch or using pre-made charms.

Our recommendation is to binge The Office for the eighth time (totally not out of personal experience) while making these gifts for your friends and family. Alternatively, you could listen to that new album by your favourite artist that you’ve been anticipating, or even a good ol’ podcast.

Hopefully, these gift ideas will make your gift-giving experience a lot more hands-on and enjoyable, all while putting a smile on your friends’ faces. Even if you don’t give these to anyone else, you could most certainly use them yourself, or simply experiment with new artistic hobbies. Happy crafting!

Vedika Sharma

Nanyang Tech '24

Vedika is an Economics major at Nanyang Tech and a lover of all things cottage core. When not writing or working on academics, she can mostly be found sewing, watching trashy reality TV or gushing over Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She can hold hour-long conversations on intersectional feminism but can't pronounce Worcestershire.
Joanne Lim

Nanyang Tech '24

Joanne likes romanticising the small things in life, like coffee and sunshine. She also likes saving good reaction memes for a rainy day.
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