One-Upping the Mixtape: DIY Gift Ideas - Budget Week


Photo by Marta Crowe.

I had come to the realization a few years ago that giving a person a gift should be something better than some purchased good at Wal-Mart. It hit me when my two good friends got engaged. They honored me by asking to be in the wedding and I wanted to honor them with a better present than a gun rack.

They don’t even own “Ah” gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack.

Racking my brain, I decided that I would make them a movie that was loosely based on their relationship from the very beginning. I had known both of them since we all were kicking rocks in junior high and knew their story as well as my own. So I gathered some mutual friends, dusted off my Samsung digital camera and pretended I knew how to direct a movie. Three months later, The Eternal Everlasting Escapades of Ken and Angie… Forever was completed and it depicted the greatest love story I had ever known.

In the end, the movie cost a total of $50.00 with the majority of the cost spent on a wig. Without any knowledge of film, my friends and I were able to pull off a present that my newlywed friends, if I do say so myself, would always remember.

All right, so if you spent three months on every present you wanted to make yourself, you would eventually be forced to lump all holidays into one (Chrismannibirthakkah?) in order to keep up. Nobody has the time to go above and beyond every time we want to give something. However, there are plenty of other ways to give something original to a friend or loved one without having to sink to the level of putting your favorite songs on CD. is a website run by a mother/daughter team that offers countless gift ideas that can be created with regular household items. Each type of craft is broken down by different categories (i.e. Christmas crafts and scrapbooking) with each individual project laid out in detail by listing the materials needed along with step-by-step instructions on how to put it together. One personal favorite are the “Mustache Party Straws,” which essentially are paper mustaches glued to the top of straws. These drink accessories take less than half an hour to make and not only make drinking cocktails at a housewarming party more enjoyable, everybody looks all the more awesome while drinking them.

Maybe creating a gift with your hands isn’t your thing but you still want to give somebody a present that shows your care for them more than giving them a Snuggie. There are companies that can do all the hard work for you. is one of these companies and they create freakishly accurate depictions of loved ones in bobblehead form. All that is needed on your end is a few clear shots of the person, people, or pet that you would like turned into an 8-inch statue with an oversized head.

A bobblehead that Zach made for his dad. Photo by Zachary Ehren.

They work with you every step of the way in choosing a pose for the body, the clothes it will be wearing, and the accessories it will have on its body or with it on the platform. Throughout the customization process, Custombobbleheads emails pictures of the work in progress that can be accepted or rejected, so you do not have to be afraid that you will end up with a bobblehead that’s supposed to be Grandma Margie but looks more like Samuel L. Jackson. When all is said and done, you helped create a gift unlike anything else your loved one has received before without having to worry about doing the legwork.

Zach’s dad and his bobblehead. Photo by Zachary Ehren.

We are all guilty of being “lazy present givers.” Sometimes the urge to purchase a gift card from Bath and Body Works is too strong to turn down, especially when you know the recipient loves to lather themselves in all of the chemically enhanced wonder-lotions this establishment provides. However, there is a whole world of gift ideas that show you leaned into the right side of your brain to come up with something creative. Even if it’s just a stuffed monkey created from an unworn Fruit of the Loom lying on the bottom of your sock drawer, I guarantee the recipient will get a better kick out of it (no pun intended) than all of the kitchenware you could order on Amazon.