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By Nicole Spector

There have been plenty of times when, clueless as to what to gift a friend, co-worker or family member for the holidays, I’ve gone online and ordered a gift basket to be sent to them. If I were to sum the entirety of this experience in one word (from browsing, to buying, to receiving the recipient’s thank you note), that word would be “mediocre.” Actually, I’ll make it two words, “mediocre” and “expensive.”

Though commercial gift baskets have come a long way in recent years, and diversified well beyond the classic fruit-and-crackers fare, it’s tricky to find a ready-made basket that has a personal, homespun touch.

Why buy when you can DIY to add meaning — and save money?

Wouldn’t it be more meaningful and cost-effective to make my own gift baskets for my loved ones, especially if I’m going to be seeing them in person (and thus, wouldn’t have to worry about shipping)?

I’m hardly the only one pursuing this line of thought. The search for DIY gift baskets on Pinterest is off the charts.

“Gift baskets are an incredibly popular trend on Pinterest right now, especially for the holiday season,” says Larkin Brown, Pinterest’s user researcher and resident trend expert. “Searches for ‘creative gift basket ideas’ are up 117 percent YoY as people look for creative ways to have fun with their loved ones’ wish lists.”

We’ve compiled a list of what you’ll need to make five different gift baskets for under $50 per piece, along with some practical tips to save time and money on this endeavor.

First things first: The basket (or crate, bucket, sachet) and the stuffing

The common ingredient in all these baskets, is of course, the basket (or crate, bucket, tote, sachet — whatever you want to work with), and you can find an ample assortment of nicely-priced options at Michael’s.

Remember to plug in any shopper browser extensions for these online purchases (along with any others) — right now you can get five percent off Michael’s using Ebates. Coupons.com also has some promo codes you should give a try, and if you’re using WikiBuy, any relevant/timely promo codes will be tested out for you and applied to your order, if eligible, for instant savings.

Brandice Taylor-Davis, a Brooklyn-based artist and seamstress, recommends making Dollar Tree your first stop for any DIY basket mission.

“Getting the basket there may be hit or miss but they absolutely have the tissue paper, gourmet candies, ribbon, basket stuffing, the bag to wrap the basket in, plastic flowers and anything else you need to assemble it,” she says.

The Movie Night Gift Basket

“Searches for “movie night gift basket DIY” are up 257 percent YoY,” says Brown. “Fill your basket with sweet or savory treats or tie it to a theme, whether you’re watching a scary movie or rom-com. There are endless ideas to make your gift baskets unique and personalized.”

Here’s what we recommend.

Fandango Gift CardFandango
  • Natural popcorn for microwave ($2.61, with Amazon Prime Fresh). You can also give a bag of organic seeds for those who prefer to make their own snacks (3.99 on Prime Fresh). Or go for a bag of a pre-made popcorn ($2.49 on Prime Fresh). I recommend this last route because that bag takes up a lot of space!
  • Candy. Go to the a 99 cents store for this, or check out your local supermarket’s bulk candy section.
  • Every movie lover with a dog can appreciate this mug from Amazon for $9.99 with Prime.
  • Fandango gift card (on Amazon for face value, or from Fandango, directly). As the price of a movie ticket, varies by state, I’ve usually gone with a $25 gift card. You can use Fandango cards at various movie theater chains including AMC, Marcus, Cinemark and Regal. If the recipient favors a local or indie theater, check if Fandango partners with it, otherwise you’ll probably need to go directly to the theater for a gift card.

The Bookworm's Basket

Little Women Book ToteStoriarts
  • Tote bag. If you're open to spending closer to the $50 mark, I recommend a literary tote from from Storiarts ($34) in lieu of a basket. As a book fanatic, I would faint of happiness at the mere sight of any of these totes! Many bookstores also carry book-themed totes.
  • A Barnes and Noble gift card, or one from an indie bookstore to support small businesses. Also consider a gift card from either Kindle or Audible.
  • A book. If you’d rather add a physical book (again, taking up space is a goal here), consider some recent hits like "Less" by Andrew Sean Greer, which scooped up the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in fiction, or the glorious bestseller “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.
  • A cute bookmark is a nice add-on that won’t cost you much. You can also make your own; Pinterest sports a trove of inspirational ideas.

The Spa Day Gift Basket

BellaSentials Essential Oil DiffuserBellaSentials
  • A bath bomb. Target has some good cheap individual ones like this one, for $4.99.
  • Botanicals bath salt ($18) is a bit pricy, so if you’re already doing the bath bomb, you can throw in some regular sea salt suitable for bathing. Here’s one on Kniepps for $6, which comes with a free bath mini.
  • A mini-diffuser is great for someone who wants to bring that spa feel to anywhere they take their laptop (also great if they work in a stuffy office). This one is $14.97 on Amazon Prime. If you’re going this route, I recommend adding a small bottle of eucalyptus oil, for $6.54, also on Prime.
  • A gentle bath sponge. You can get these at any drugstore, but your cheapest bet might be $1.38 from Jet.com.
  • A lavender candle is a great way to set the mood. You can find these on Amazon for $9.99, or, if you’re up for a hunt, check out your local drugstore, in person. Walgreens and CVS often have major in-store discounts on candles.
  • A manicure set, for just $3.99 on Amazon.

*Note, if you purchase all these things you’ll likely go over $50, so pick and choose, accordingly.

The Moscow Mule Basket

Moscow Mule Hammered Copper Drinking MugHome Select

The Workout Buddy Basket

Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse KopeckyRodale Books

*Again, if you purchase all these things you’ll go over $50, so just go with your faves. You can always add in several little bags of Trail Mix to take up space if that’s a concern, or throw in a bulky bag of ankle socks or a pack of Icy & Hot Pain Relieving Cream (which is generally a big hit with grandparents, no matter their workout regimen, so kids, take note!).

You can really do whatever you want — have fun

Hopefully these ideas help, but remember, part of the point of making a gift basket yourself is that you can really do whatever you want — and spend as little or as much as desired.

Cuyler Moon, founder of NeedvWant, points out that the only rule you may want to follow is to stick with a theme.

“[The basket can be about] a shared place remembered or an event coming up,” Moon says. “If you and the recipient are from different locations or the person has moved away, make it about your location. I love doing baskets like that, and the options are endless.”

MORE HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS

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