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

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woman holding diy advent calendar with gold basket

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.

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 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!

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

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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.

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 BoxBirchbox, 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:

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 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 sitting on wood table for diy advent calendar

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 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 $2 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 just under a buck each, and the flavor is spot-on for the holidays!
  • Hand creamA winter essential for just $0.99!
  • 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 $0.50 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 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 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!

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 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 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 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.

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 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!

Emily obtained her Bachelor's degrees from Clarkson University with 4 years of content writing experience specializing in health, beauty, fashion, & living frugally.

Join The Discussion

Comments 14

  1. Beth

    Thank you for these smaller gift ideas. Also I had totally forgotten that my son asked for a switchblade comb until I saw your post. I found the same four pack you linked to eBay for $7 on amazon. Although I ultimately decided to order just a single comb of higher quality. I’m so glad for the reminder as a busy mom of four it’s easy to forget things 🙂

  2. Lori

    A wonderful gift idea and the baskets are beautiful!

  3. Materof6

    Lina, this is such a GREAT idea! Thank you so much for sharing, and keep them coming!

  4. Michelle

    I’ve made advent gifts for family and friends. My brother and hubby received a different beer each day. My parents had all sorts of fun things in it like lottery tickets, tshirts from five below, candy. They are so much fun to put together.


    This is really fun! I may see if I can pull together a kid advent with a variety of things I mostly have on hand-plus as all fellow bargain shoppers here, there is bound to be PLENTY of holiday wrapping paper around 😉

    • MAGGIE

      Also just thought about a more 2020 theme mix in with masks, hand sanitizer, etc

      • Lori

        Good idea!

  6. josm

    Great idea! I did a beauty advent calendar for my brothers’s wife and girlfriend using all the beauty products I’ve picked up for free or almost free at Walgreens/CVS/Walmart!

  7. Marleah

    We do this secretly for a family each year! It’s so much fun! I use lots of goodies i buy from christmas sales the year before!

  8. Cat

    This is pretty unrelated to all of the things in the post, but it’s a frugal advent calendar idea for kids: take all.of the Christmas picture books you own and assign one per day to make into an advent calendar. I have done it by wrapping each individually before, and I’ve also done it the lazy way by throwing a Post-It note with a number written on it. We own about 18 Christmas books, so I supplement with books from the library. Voila, free Advent calendar. You’re welcome.

    • Hipgrandma

      Did this for my grandkids about 5 years ago. I was a hit with the kids and their parents

    • Katie

      I do this too! I don’t actually number mine but I wrap the library books in different paper so I know to steer her toward those books first. My daughter is always so excited to unwrap her book each night!

  9. ToriSC

    My daughter moved away to the west coast for the winter so I sent one with her. Used empty tp rolls (who doesn’t have 25 of these around) glued together in the shape of a tree, painted the outside green & stuffed it with all sorts of things from chocolate to makeup to $1 bottles of rum (she’s over 21) to a printed menu for a local taco joint wrapped around $10. Used mini cupcake papers to cover each one & a sticker with a number written on it (had to work in reverse order so she wouldn’t accidentally tear off the wrong one). Wrapped the whole thing in a box labeled “Open November 30th.”

  10. Katie

    These ideas will make great stocking stuffers too! Thanks for the great ideas!

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