Show Off Your Christmas Spirit With This Frugal DIY Advent Calendar Idea!

This Advent Calendar is both a fun DIY and a cool gift!

Like many people, I love the holidays. When I was a kid, I couldn’t get enough of the holly, jolly time of year. Even now that I’m older, I’m happy to say I still enjoy the festivities & traditions surrounding Christmas.

Though I always looked forward to Christmas movie marathons and mounds of holiday sweets, there’s been one tradition that stood out above the rest — the countdown to Christmas! Specifically, it was waking up, overly excited, to check my stocking to see if I had a goodie waiting for me.

It’s probably no surprise, then, that advent calendars are my jam. And, luckily for me, retailers have been catching on to their popularity in the past several years. But being frugal, I always wondered if I could just make my own at a better value.

For the last few years, I’ve been making calendars for my parents and both of my brothers (including their significant others). Let me tell you, they give me the same joy that I had as a child opening my own daily treat.

I make THREE frugal DIY Christmas advent calendars with gifts for both the men and women to enjoy by alternating days – i.e. the men would open on odd-numbered days and women on even-numbered days. Then on the last day (Christmas Day), they’d have a combined gift to open together!

Spoiler alert… the DIY advent calendars are always HUGE hit!

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I kept the same plan: three calendars, one calendar per couple, with 12 gifts for the guys, 12 for the girls, and a combined gift for December 25th.

Alright, alright… you’re probably thinking, “Um, how much money are you spending on all of this?!” I am SO glad you asked!

My goal was to keep these DIY Christmas advent calendars frugal, but not be filled with a bunch of useless stuff, so I aimed for roughly $1-$1.50 per gift. Factoring in the cost of wrapping supplies, each calendar comes to around $30-$35. Considering I’m the youngest in my family, and how much they all do for me throughout the year, this is such a small price to pay to boost their Christmas cheer.

My best tip when crafting more than one basket? Work in multiples. Buying gift sets or multi-pack products is a great way to keep the per-piece price low. The Beauty Brands Discover Box, Birchbox, and Birchbox Man are helpful resources to get sample-sized toiletries for around a buck apiece. Also, Dollar Tree and stores like Target’s dollar spot, have tons of $1 gifts with some products containing multiples which can even take the price point below a dollar per item!

Here are some of my goodies I’ve included in my DIY frugal Advent calendars this Christmas:

Women’s beauty products:

Single-use masks or sheet masks — check Dollar Tree for brand name options or buy in multi-packs for a discount.

Hair treatments — find single-use packs or trial sizes in the travel aisle, or check the beauty boxes mentioned above.

Beauty minis — in addition to the beauty boxes above, you may also find that you have acquired a collection of free beauty samples or minis from shopping at places like Ulta Beauty or Sephora.

Lip balm — grab a multi-pack for a cheaper per-piece price.

Makeup remover cloths — keep an eye out for when they offer these with Amazon Subscribe & Save!

Women’s gifts:

Satin hair scrunchies — I’ve had an Etsy obsession lately, and this set came with five, so I get to keep one for myself!

Jewelry — With brands like Starfish Project & Cate & Chloe, you can score deals on gorgeous & trendy jewelry pieces starting at just $1.99!

Candles — Dollar Tree & ALDI are great resources for inexpensive candles that smell like much more expensive brands! Or you could opt for an inexpensive candle set and divide them up among your gift baskets!

Christmas socks — The funnier, the better, or you could consider buying a sock advent calendar and divide it among your gift baskets!

Snacks and treats:

Sunflower seeds — This was a special request by my brother, and the snack pack size is perfect for the calendars.

Packs of gum — Again, multi-packs are the way to go for a cheap price, but you can also check for discounted packs at the grocery stores, drugstores, etc.

Ghirardelli chocolate squares — The holiday flavors are the best!

Teabags or tea crystals — When you break down the tea bag packs, these are only about $0.20 per piece!

Beef jerky — Individually-wrapped snack sticks are a hearty, inexpensive treat, plus, you can get an even better deal on these with Amazon’s Subscribe & Save!

Men’s toiletries:

Bulldog face wash — I keep seeing more from this brand, and it got good reviews from the men in my family!

Method body wash — Target has frequent promos on their health and beauty items, so watch for a deal that makes these toiletries are even more cost-effective, but even without it they’re just under $2 each!

Duke Cannon cooling wipes — I have a feeling the guys will be hanging onto these for the summer season and will come in handy!

Candy cane chapstick — The 3-pack I bought makes these each just under a buck each, and the flavor is spot-on for the holidays!

Hand cream — A winter essential for just $0.99!

Goodwipes shower wipes — For the car, gym bag, office drawer… really anywhere.

Men’s gifts:

ArmorAll spray — Found this (and other cleaner varieties) at Dollar Tree!

Microfiber cloth — When splitting the 2-pack, it’s only $0.50 each for these cleaning towels.

Multi-use tools — So handy, and they fit right into a wallet pocket.

Shout wipes — Life’s messy, and these cheap wipes help out with that.

Switchblade comb — We spotted these at an arcade prize counter, and the guys thought they were hilarious. Luckily I found them through a seller on eBay!

Screen cleaning wipes — At around 9¢ each, these individually-wrapped wipes are a great deal and even have a 10% off coupon you can clip on Amazon!

Hand Warmers — perfect for the guys who like to stay warm while doing stuff outside all day.

There’s an endless number of goodies you could use to create these advent basket calendars. So, based on your recipients’ tastes and interests, you can customize the packages however you’d like and stay within a budget comfortable for you!

For some additional ideas, Target’s Bullseye’s Playground and their in-store stocking stuffer section are great for sourcing inexpensive gifts. Even better, you can build up a stockpile of the freebies we post to make your calendar cost next to nothing!

And then for the big day (a.k.a. Christmas!), you can get a little more adventurous or generous with the gift. In the past, I’ve gifted mini bottles of Bailey’s to stiffen up that Christmas morning coffee, along with funny family pictures and inside jokes.

Some other ideas for the 25th gift could be gift cards to Starbucks, Amazon, or other popular retailers, a National Parks Pass (which is even FREE if you head here), or something from our full line up of awesome product reviews!

Once the gifts are compiled, next comes wrapping.

I’ve used felt baskets from Bullseye’s Playground in the past and last year I took it a step cheaper by scooping up some Dollar Tree baskets and spray painting them with metallic gold paint. While the baskets I used are on backorder, they might have them in-store nearest store or you can shop all their other festive options online!

I also picked up festive tissue paper while I was there to wrap each gift and stuff them inside a cellophane treat bag which you can also find on Amazon.

To make sure the gifts can be identified by the right recipient and which day they should be opening, I wrote the designated day number on these Office Depot tags in metallic Sharpie. For the smaller gifts, I used pop-up pillow boxes and taped the ends closed to make sure nothing slipped out.

When they’re wrapped and ready, I place the gifts in the baskets in reverse order, starting with number 25, and include any special instructions for opening. I like to deliver mine on Thanksgiving Day when my whole family gets together. It also gives me extra time with them to plead that they don’t open all the gifts at once (as my oldest brother has been extremely tempted to do).

If you’re too short on time, you can always minimize this idea to just 12 days of Christmas, which starts the countdown to Christmas on December 13th!

As fun as it is making the calendars, the real fun begins when I start receiving texts from my family almost daily with excitement and gratitude as they open the gifts. Then on Christmas Day, we catch up on their favorite goodies. I’m already imagining the boys bringing their switchblade combs to slick back their hair on Christmas morning.

These DIY advent calendars do require some work planning, shopping, & wrapping — but they’re 100% worth it!

This is only my third year of the tradition (and my gifting skills are getting better), but I have a good feeling this tradition will continue for many years to come!

This reserve Advent calendar idea is a great way to give back this holiday!

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