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

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Try making this DIY Advent Calendar for a festive and frugal new tradition.

woman holding diy advent calendar with gold basket

This DIY Advent Calendar is both a fun craft 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.

ALDI Wine Advent Calendar with bottles of wine and glass

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.

gold and white diy advent calendars sitting on table

I make frugal DIY Christmas advent calendars with gifts for both the men and women to enjoy on 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!

hand holding a 25 days of christmas diy advent calendar instruction card

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To gift to all my family members, I use 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 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.

various personal care items sitting on table for frugal diy advent calendar

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, Walmart Beauty Box 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 $1.25 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 advent calendars this Christmas:

beauty supplies from beauty boxes sitting in boxes on table

Women’s beauty products:

arm with four black hair scrunchies

Women’s gifts:

santa hand holding box of ghiradelli chocolates

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 gumAgain, 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 crystalsWhen you break down the tea bag packs, these are only about $0.20 per piece!
  • Beef jerkyIndividually 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 sitting on wood table for diy advent calendar

Men’s toiletries:

  • Bulldog mini face wash — I keep seeing more from this brand, and it got good reviews from the men in my family!
  • Method mini body washTarget 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 $3 each!
  • Duke Cannon cooling wipesI have a feeling the guys will be hanging onto these for the summer season and will come in handy!
  • Candy cane chapstickThe 3-pack I bought makes these each under $2 each, and the flavor is spot-on for the holidays!
  • Hand creamA winter essential for just $1.29!
  • Goodwipes shower wipes — For the car, gym bag, office drawer… really anywhere.

bottles of car cleaner and microfiber towels on table

Men’s gifts:

  • ArmorAll sprayFound this (and other cleaner varieties) at Dollar Tree!
  • Microfiber cloth — When splitting the 2-pack, it’s only $0.63 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 first 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 wipesAt around 9¢ each, these individually-wrapped wipes are a great deal and even have a 10% off coupon you can clip on Amazon!
  • Hand Warmersperfect for the guys who like to stay warm while doing stuff outside all day.

target stocking stuffer treats and gifts aisle at store

There’s an endless number of goodies you could use to create your DIY advent 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 Dollar Spot and its 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!

woman holding amazon gift cards

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 small gift cards to Starbucks, Amazon, or other popular retailers, a National Parks Pass, or something from our full lineup of awesome product reviews!

Once the gifts are compiled, next comes wrapping. 🎁

hand holding two red and black baskets in store aisle

I’ve used felt baskets from Target in the past for DIY advent calendars and last year I took it a step cheaper by scooping up some Dollar Tree baskets and spray painting them with metallic gold paint.

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.

gold baskets with wrapped advent countdown presents inside

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 the 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! 🎄

hand holding switchblade comb above table with yellow boxes

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 my fourth 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!

About the writer:

Emily obtained her Bachelor's degrees from Clarkson University with 5 years of content writing experience specializing in health, beauty, fashion, home, & living frugally.

Join The Discussion

Comments 10

  1. Ms. Frizzle

    I have sons that ask me to make a (real sugar) glass bottle soda advent calendar. We have a soda store here called Rocket Fizz where we pick them up at…. They LOVE IT

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      So cool! Thanks for sharing about the advent calendar you make, Ms. Frizzle! ❤️

  2. peachcraze

    So many great ideas! I love making advents. I have also done a soda/pop calendar. I’ve used a nativity and mixed the pieces in with activities such as phone caroling, looking at Christmas lights and writing a grateful Christmas list. One year I did letters/cards for the grandparents. It took a little effort to get all of them gathered up but most of the family was good to participate. There were cute pictures from the kids and poems and funny stories from the adults. I made envelopes from cute scrapbook paper and put them all in a basket. This was a favorite and comes out every year even though it was 10 years ago.

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Glad you found this post helpful! Thanks so much for sharing your ideas of the advent calendars you’ve done previously, peachcraze! 🤗💞

  3. hellfiregainz

    I do this. I plan to continue when my children are adults but also adding the once a month homemade meal drop-off from mom and dad IF they live local.

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Love the idea of homemade meals as an advent option! 🤗❤️

  4. Sue

    It’s not quite the same, but I loved the idea, and it was a HUGE hit to make a note of a fond memory or note of appreciation for something your loved on did you’ll never forget. You make one for each month of the year and they open it on the first day of each month. I did it for all of my local family and asked them to do the same. My son played along (he was in his early 20’s), and I can’t even tell you how heart warming it was to read some of the things he came up with. I highly recommend it.

    You could do a similar thing and make it Christmas themed, maybe a special gift or holiday memory and make that an advent calendar. It’s a frugal thing, but priceless at the same time.

    • Claudette (Hip Sidekick)

      Great suggestion, Sue!!! That’s a great way to record those fond memories. We sure appreciate you sharing!

  5. Justina

    thanks! a few wks back, i pulled together all of the beauty samples that just aren’t made for me or my household or siblings, i had them aside for the homeless shelter and was waiting on an idea, this is Great! I gift their thrift shoppe in the county, raffle baskets every now and then to raffle off to bring in donations, so turned these beauty samples into an advent bag, placed each item into a holiday treat bag and they are all together in one festive foil gift bag, dig in each day for a sample, some of those great deluxe samples from Ulta too like Vichy and It cosmetics! The head of the ministry is happy with the idea and will raffle it from their thrift shoppe for them to bring in donations!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      You’re welcome! What a wonderful idea! Glad you could create such a great advent bag with your awesome samples! ❤️🙌

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