Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s AfterGlo

Budget-friendly DIY holiday gifts

 By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s

I’m not exactly what you would call “crafty.” However, the holiday season seems to awaken my deepest desires to wear the label proudly. I’ve always wanted to be someone who could stitch something up like a pro – I secretly love walking up and down the aisles of JoAnn Fabrics – and the holidays allow me to call upon what little skills I do have.

In my new e-book, “Gluten-Free for the Holidays” (available at, I discuss a few of my favorite ways for gifting sweet treats – like homemade chocolates and a lemon-honey tea base – to friends and family throughout the holidays. Not only are these gifts a great way for saying thank you to a hostess or coworker, but they are also perfect for a limited budget.

Today, however, I’m calling upon a few experts to give us the inside scoop on how to make do-it-yourself gifts and give someone a fun, but thoughtful, present that will stand out amongst the rest.

1. Check out an online auction site for ideas.

Andrew Blachman, co-founder of, said the site’s auctions are ideal for someone who is seeking an unexpected, budget-friendly gift.

“Our virtual auction rooms allow savvy shoppers to discover exciting gifts, jewelry, electronics, DIY fashion, home décor and so much more, all from the comfort of a dorm room,” Blachman said. “These days, many [people] are accustomed to shopping online, and we’re making the experience more fun and interactive. Our auctions become live events where buyers and sellers can hang out, chat and win unique items at great values.”

Current DIY gift items include pick-your-style bracelets that boast affirmations, like “faith” and “love,” and have customizable bands, giving them a personal touch. The starting bid is $1 and the cost for shipping is $5. Other items include supplies for designing handmade notecards and jewelry crafting kits.

2. Upcycle everyday items for creative gifts.

Danny Seo (, author of “Upcycling Celebrations: A Use-What-You-Have Guide to Decorating, Gift-Giving & Entertaining,” said handmade gifts are the way to go when choosing a thoughtful gift that will stay within your budget.

“The nice thing about a quality handmade gift is that it’s very hard to put an exact monetary value on the gift,” Seo said. “If you buy something from a store, it’s very easy for the recipient to realize, ‘Oh, a $5 gift card to Starbucks. How nice.’ But if you bought a bag of organic whole bean coffee, custom blended with spices and presented it in a vintage canning jar that also cost only $5 to make, then the perceived value is much more. Plus, I also think in general the idea of handmade gifts is one people are beginning to appreciate much more these days anyway.”

Seo does point out, however, that if you choose to go the gift card route, then there is still room for creativity. One of his favorite ways to present people with a gift card is to use an empty Altoid tin as his “envelope.” Design your own by covering the outside of a tin with decorative origami paper, using white glue and scissors. Hide the seams of the paper by running strips of white glue along the edges and sprinkling with glitter. Allow the glue to dry, then place the card in the container, or fill the tin with holiday candies and lay the gift card on top.

The crafty Seo said he is also “kinda obsessed with making bath mats for people” right now, an idea that is perfect for your quirky BFF.

“Buy three plush cotton towels – get good quality ones – at a major discount from a store like TJ Maxx or Marshalls,” he said. “Use scissors to cut one-inch wide strips about six inches long. Then, pick up a $5 no-slip mat that goes under area rugs from the store. Make little slits [around the perimeter of the no-slip mat] and thread one towel strip halfway through the first slit and knot it. Continue until you have a fabulous handmade shaggy bath mat.”

3. Get social.

It seems everyone from your kid brother to your grandmother is utilizing some sort of social media these days. Go digital with your gift by making a video for your friends or family, using a free social video platform, like Sociagram ( The application allows users to record and send video gift messages. That means you get to customize your gift choice by pairing it with a fun, personal message that your friends will truly appreciate. Share an inside joke, sing her favorite song or recount one a story about a prank you played on him that made him scream out loud. Either way, have fun with it!


Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at


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