Featured Image

DIY Holiday Gifts You Can Make in Your Dorm Room

When you have no money and no time, Christmas shopping can be hard. Fortunately, there are lots of easy gift ideas you can make without professional crafting skills or a huge budget in the comfort of your dorm room.

It's that time of year again...almost. The weather's changing, finals and graduation are fast approaching, and you have to start thinking about what to get your friends and family for Christmas. What do you get the person who lives in a dorm room and has no room for anything? Or your picky younger sibling, or your grandmother who insists your visit is present enough (maybe listen to Grandma for that one)?

When you have no money and no time, holiday shopping can be hard. Fortunately, there are lots of easy DIY gift ideas you can make without professional crafting skills or a huge budget, even in the comfort of your dorm room.

Related: 5 Ways to Get Ready for the Holidays as a College Student


Who doesn't love food? One of the greatest joys of the season is the excuse to eat entirely too much sugar and not feel awful about ourselves (it's all part of the celebration, right?). For the foodie in your life, or really anyone without dietary requirements or food allergies, making cookies or other desserts, wrapped in pretty paper or packaging when you're done, makes a great gift. Don't have much of a pantry and don't want to build one just for the holiday? Try easy, simple recipes like these with just three ingredients. If you want to get a little more creative, make your own mixes for things like cocoa, pancakes, cookies, or dips, put them in a mason jar or glass ornament (or mix and match several), and you've got the perfect gift for your friend who has both a kitchen and blossoming culinary skills.

I always find myself drinking too much cocoa this time of year and thus experimenting with different things to mix in. If you have friends like me, make cocoa mix and buy your favorite add-ins, like peppermints, cinnamon, or peanut butter. Put them all in a box with a mug, adding other treats as desired (like cookies or candy canes). Decorate to your heart's content (more on decorating the mug below) and finish with a bow.

If tea is more their style, try this ingenious idea for gifting festive tea bags in a mini Christmas tree.

Recipe book

If you want to get a little more creative with your foodie gifts, find your favorite recipes from family, friends, or even Pinterest and compile them all in a recipe book. Decorate with colorful paper and handwritten notes, and you have a gift that will keep giving all year long.

Arts and crafts

While food is a great gift, it's not for everyone. Using basic DIY skills can help you make some awesome handmade gifts for friends and family, no kitchen required.

If you're an artist yourself, even an amateur one, you could create art and give it as a gift. Put paint on canvas, draw their favorite fictional character, write a poem or use calligraphy—whatever you're good at, the recipient will appreciate it. Also, if you can sew, knit, crochet, cross-stitch, or something similar, you can create or customize any number of gift ideas: knit a scarf, customize a towel, make coasters, cross-stitch something they love...the sky is the limit.

Who doesn't need more blankets? Making a tie blanket is the perfect gift that is quick, easy, and personal—and doesn't require any sewing skills. You can find instructions here. Or with even minor sewing skills, you can customize a tea towel or blanket, or you can use sharpies, paint pens, or whatever looks like fun from the craft aisle.

If you don't want to sew, dollar store mugs can be customized in any number of ways. You can find fun tutorials here, here, here, or here. You can also make custom bookmarks for the bookworm in your life; there are tutorials here, here, and here. For the friend that needs a little pampering, make a homemade sugar scrub from a recipe like this one.

Unique DIY gifts

If you can't get enough of awesome DIYs, try a personalized coupon book (this works best for friends and family you see often). Write out coupons like "good for one free car ride," or a shoulder to cry on, girls' night in, coffee date, an hour of homework help, or whatever they might appreciate most. You can also make photo gifts from magnets to mouse pads to canvases on websites like Shutterfly, Snapfish, or Walgreens. Or if you have even basic graphic design skills, you can make it even more custom and design something yourself. For the more adventurous, put together a DIY fort kit from the tutorial here.

Related: The Broke Student’s Guide to Giving Holiday Gifts

The gift-giving season is just around the corner, so when the time comes to figure out how many people you are socially obligated to exchange gifts with this here, you can panic a little less with plenty of ideas for easy, inexpensive gifts—and maybe even make something to keep for yourself.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

christmas Christmas presents crafts December diy dorm life food fun gifts holiday gifts holidays presents student gifts student life

About Emily Rogan

Emily Rogan is a student at Morehead State University, where she's studying Communications and Theater. When she's not in school, she is an actor, musician, singer, and writer.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Elizabeth Stafford

Elizabeth Stafford

High School Class of 2021

As a UK student moving to California due to my dad's job in the military, when I first signed up for CollegeXpress a few months ago, the college process ahead seemed daunting and incredibly stressful. That all changed after I started to explore what this website had to offer. Not only was I helped by the vast array of resources available to me, but through being a CollegeXpress member, there have been so many more benefits. There have been emails with college tips—all of which I found incredibly helpful—as well as invitations to events and notifications of scholarships that'll make college possible for me. Overall, I'm very grateful to CollegeXpress for all of these things and more. Not only have they helped me grow my understanding of the college process, but they've also helped me to grow as a person, giving me new skills that I can take with me through life.

Joan Franklin

Joan Franklin


I love this website and have been using it for years with my students. I originally bought products through Wintergreen Orchard House and appreciated having key facts at my fingertips when advising students. Your site is easy to access and offers a wide array of topics I need as a busy college counselor.

Rana Slosberg

Rana Slosberg

Slosberg College Solutions LLC

My favorite part of CollegeXpress is the 800+ lists which have all kinds of hard-to-find information. These lists are helpful when I’m creating college lists, and I also use them to give students a feel for a particular college or university.

Dani York

Dani York

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped in my journey by comparing multiple colleges for my final decision. While looking at different colleges, I was able to compare the tuition expenses and that landed me with the college that I’m currently enrolled in, Western Kentucky University. Thank you!

Bri'Yana Brown-Dunn

Bri'Yana Brown-Dunn

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me gain interest in many colleges/universities and many scholarships. I would say the most helpful thing CollegeXpress has done for me is sending me emails that tell me certain types of colleges are interested in me as well as emails about scholarships that I can look at and possibly apply for.

College Matches