Affordable, Expensive-Looking DIY Gifts

wrapped beeswax candles with small white flowers
  • 1-100 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-500

Half the fun of DIY projects is being able to give gifts made with your own hands. Here are just a few affordable, and amazing options to consider.


Candle making harkens back hundreds of years as a basic form of providing light. With modern electricity in the mix, candles are now more commonly used to create ambiance and for ceremonial purposes. Candles are a timeless gift, easy to make, and fun to produce.

Start with a quality wax. Beeswax or soy waxes are preferred.

Next, choose a mold. You can buy molds or simply use containers from around the house. Cut-off milk cartons, jars, or condensed juice cans are all examples. Melt your wax and add coloring, scent, and aesthetics like leaves or herb sprigs. Then stabilize your wick or wicks, pour in the wax, and allow to cool. Put a ribbon or paper wrap around the candle or jar to dress it up even more.

Etched Glass

glass etched with turtle design

Many anniversaries, retirements, and other achievements have been marked by glassware etched to commemorate the accomplishment. The same technique can be used at home to create memorable gifts.

While glassware is one option, consider candle holders, glass window decor, ornaments, and wine bottles. Etching glass relies on a stencil and chemical etching solution such as Armour Etch. The solution can be found online or at a nearby craft supply store.

Although you can use preformed stencils, in true DIY style you can make your own out of sticky paper such as shelf liner. Draw a design or wording and use an exacto knife to cut it out. Place it on your piece of glass and ensure a strong adhesion so the etching solution doesn’t leak beneath it. Then follow the direction on the etching solution container, taking great care with safety precautions. Once you’ve mastered the technique you can use it for a number of gift-worthy applications.

Remote Holder

The best gifts are both useful and visually appealing. With ubiquitous remotes for AC units, stereos, receivers, TVs and the Rumba cluttering the coffee table, build a wooden remote holder to keep them all in one place. This is a great gift for mom, dad, spouse, or friend.

Cut two matching triangular sides that angle from 6-10” at the top down to 3” at the bottom. Create matching-height pieces to connect the two sides at the back and the front. You may want to explore different joint options such as dado, tongue and groove, or finger for the best strength and look. Use a dado joint to section out the holder into separate spaces for each remote, sliding a divider into each evenly-spaced joint. Sand and stain your finished project or leave it in natural form.

You can use the same techniques to customize holders for craft supplies, tools, or office supplies too.

Wood Planter

hand varnishing a wooden planter box

With some basic woodworking skills, you can put together a wood planter for a thoughtful, useful, and long-lasting gift. You can play around with the design to create the size you need. The most basic, yet expensive-looking technique, is to use a tongue and groove joint for 2 ½” to 6” boards. This is a great project to use up scrap lumber too.

Measure side lengths. Then cut each board into a tongue and groove. Stack them vertically until you reach the desired height. Mount the boards to a basic frame using a nail gun and wood glue. Create a finished look by applying trim around the top and bottom of the box. Then stain or paint it your color of choice. Include a bag of soil and flowers for a memorable gift.

Coat Rack

A coat rack takes many forms, but the fun of this project is creating a unique end product. Start by considering the use. In its basic form, this is just a board with hardware attached to it. But the same technique can provide a striking baseball theme for a child’s room or an elegant finish to an office.

Select a board length by calculating how many hooks you’d like on it. Remember to sufficiently space the hooks five or more inches apart so clothing has room to hang without crowding. Paint, stain, white-wash, or stencil the board. Then attach hooks. Have fun with it. There are endless options including rustic knobs, cabinet handles, or DIY hooks you’ve made from metal. On a different scale, the same technique can be used to make a necklace hanger or scarf rack.

Sugar Scrubs and Bath Bombs

There are countless recipes online for making your own sugar scrubs, scented or unscented and they make a pampering gift for those you love. You can also master the craft of making bath bombs to supplement a complete spa kit basket.