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50 Festive Fivers

Top Christmas presents for under a fiver

With a little imagination, effort and a few quid, you don't need to spend big to put a smile on loved ones' faces this Christmas.

Festive Fivers is a contest we run every two years aimed to build a database of the most clever, weird, romantic, thoughtful or practical present ideas to make or buy, for a kid or grown-up under £5. Here are the best ideas from 2012, also check past years' entries & 40 Xmas MoneySaving Tips.

The entrants of last year's Festive Fivers competition show that with a little imagination, effort and a few quid, you don't need to spend big to put a smile on loved ones' faces this Christmas.

The top three

The 12 dates of Christmas Date night package for someone you love

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5

For a winning gift that will not only make someone's Christmas, but the whole year ahead too, try 'the 12 dates of Christmas'.

The paint sample calendar A wipe-clean calendar made with paint sample cards

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5

If you know someone with a calendar is crammed with events (or full of crossings-out), this superb reuseable calendar made from free paint samples is the perfect gift.

Santa sleigh bell ( kids' spoiler alert) a fallen bell from 'Santa's sleigh'

Buy/make: Buy it.
Cost: £2-5

This is sure to make the kids' eyes as wide as their smiles. Simply buy a sleigh bell (£1 or £2 on eBay), then attach it to a piece of ribbon. On Christmas Eve, put it in the garden somewhere visible from inside the house. In the morning, 'spot' the bell and point it out to your child. They'll feel really special to find a bell from Father Christmas's own sleigh.

Ideas for adults

50 Sheds Of Grey A parody of the novel 50 Shades of Grey for shed-lovers

Buy/make: Buy it.
Cost: hard copy: now £7.99 (was £9.99)

Dads are notoriously difficult to buy for. But if your Dad likes a joke (and a shed), this parody of the bestselling erotic novel is the perfect present.

Hidden compartment book Hollow out a book and stash your valuables inside

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £2-5

Keep your precious items (anything from your iPad to your secret stash of M&Ms) concealed from prying eyes in this old-school hidden compartment book.

Scrabble picture print Arrange Scrabble tiles into words. Take a photo, print, frame.

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £3-5

Scrabble-related merchandise is fashionable but often way over-priced (check out this Scrabble picture print for £34). However, you can make your own Scrabble picture print simply by arranging the tiles to spell the recipient's name (or kids' names, a cool quote etc), taking a photo of it and framing the print. Score. A tip from Martin: why not upload your Scrabble pic on to a photo mug? See more in Photo Deals.

Homemade vinyl wall clock One clock mechanism + one old record = homemade vintage clock

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5

A practical present for your music-mad friend or family member that takes a matter of minutes (time yourself if you don't believe us). Simply buy a cheap vinyl from a record store or charity shop and a clock mechanism (available on eBay for a few pounds). Enlarge the hole on the record if necessary and attach the mechanism.

Word cloud wall print A personalised 'word cloud'

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £4

Personalised 'word cloud' prints go for a pretty penny when bought from trendy retailers, but you can make your own for just the cost of the frame.

Antique teacup candle Melt old candle stubs into a pretty old teacup

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5

These cost a pretty penny in shops, but you can make your own for less than £5.

Bling the grimMake your cleaning aids beautiful

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £1-5

Lessen the drudgery of household chores by jazzing up cleaning aids. Use paint, nail polish, stick-on gems or whatever bling you like to decorate common household objects, such as dustpan and brush sets, rubber gloves and buckets. You can grab all these cheaply at pound shops or Wilko.

Homemade herbal tea Posh tea recipes for homemade blends

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £4-5

Herbal tea can set you back quite a bit. So these recipes for homemade blends make fab MoneySaving alternatives.

Gardeners' plant marker stones To keep tabs on which plants, flowers and herbs are which

Buy/make: Both.
Cost: £3.50

If you know someone who can't tell their rosemary from their thyme, try making these cute little marker stones. Buy some flat stones (it's illegal to collect them from the beach) and paint pictures or write the gardener's fave plants' names on them. Once dry, varnish, so they're weatherproof.

Fir cone birdseed feederHave fun feeding the birdies

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £1-2

Give the gift of nature with a simple, cheap homemade bird feeder. Collect the biggest fir cones you can find (the best time to do this is after strong winds, and before the squirrels get them) and twist some wire around the bases. Dip in some melted lard, roll in mixed bird seed and poke some raisins in the gaps.

Memory jarPhotos, drawings & handwritten memories

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £0-2

What could be more comforting at the end of a long and difficult day than a jar full of memories from someone you love? Write memories, stick photos or draw pictures of the person the gift is for on business card-sized pieces of card and pop them in a jar.

Plant pot surpriseUnnamed herbs for a surprise recipe

Buy/make: Buy it.
Cost: £4-5

Choose a recipe or two which call for herbs. Then buy the seeds and a plant pot from a garden centre. Decorate the plant pot and attach the recipe, but don't say what the herb is (eg, ‘recipe for garlic and ---- foccacia bread').

iJokeForget an iPad - an iJoke is way cheaper

Buy/make: Both.
Cost: £0-5

This makes for a fun joke present for the Apple fanatic in your life. Grab random items from around the house or buy some small items.

Then use a marker pen to draw the Apple logo and the name of the item underneath preceded by the letter ‘i' to create your very own Apple products. iComb, iSpatula and iSaw are but a few...

Button/scrabble/lego magnets DIY magnets

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5

For funky fridge magnets that cost next to nothing to make, buy a set of small magnets from eBay. Then simply superglue them to the backs of buttons, scrabble letters, bits of Lego, etc. Leave to dry before sticking them on the fridge.

Fizzy scented bath bombsThese are da bomb!

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5

Mix together 1kg of sodium bicarbonate and 500g of citric acid in a large bowl until well combined. Add a few drops of any food colouring and flavouring you like, eg, vanilla extract, cocoa powder or coffee granules.

Festive fleece pet bedFor the pet-owner in your life

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5

A practical gift for a pet lover (and their pet).You'll need an old fleece (not V-neck), some stuffing, wool/yarn, a large needle, and very basic sewing skills.

Student/bachelor 'cookbook' Collate all the best takeaway menus for this joke present

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £1-5

Buy a ring binder and decorate the front with 'student cookbook' (or bachelor/lazy man/lazy woman). Gather heaps of takeaway menus local to the recipient and display them inside.

Kids' homemade movies A great gift for Gramps/way to embarrass your kids later on

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5

Record footage of your children at birthdays and on family holidays, then download it on to cheap DVDs (available at Poundworld) to give as gifts to their grandparents for Christmas.

Personalised e-reader case A book jacket for the digital age

Buy/make: Both.
Cost: approx £5

The art of sewing meets the digital age in this online tutorial of how to sew your own e-reader case.

You'll need nice fabric for the exterior, plain fabric for the interior, some cotton quilt batting, a piece of elastic, a sewing machine and some faith in your ability!

Homemade jamKirstie Allsopp, eat your heart out!

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £1-2

Here's a present that's fun for the maker and the recipient. Go for a nice walk and hunt for some blackberry bushes (or another fruit, if you prefer). Collect 500g, buy jam sugar, and a lemon and use a simple recipe from the internet. Recycle old jam jars and decorate the lid with some nice material.

The judging panel

With all the great entries, the MSE judges (Archna, Helen S, Debs B and Martin, of course) had a tough time choosing the winners. But after lengthy deliberation, several discussions and some hard and fast defence of our favourites, we finally agreed on our top picks. And remember, cheesy as it sounds, any idea that comes from the heart is a winner.

Personalised calendarTurn your snaps into a practical present

Buy/make: Buy it.
Cost: approx £5

A personalised calendar is a great gift idea, as it's practical and bang on budget. Check the Cheap Photo Deals page for the latest calendar offers and follow the simple steps to create one.

Cinema sitting Send your friends to the flicks and babysit their little'uns

Buy/make: Buy it.
Cost: £5

Perfect for a friend/family member with young children, this is a double-sided present that includes cinema tickets and a babysitter for the night (you). A night at the flicks isn't cheap. Yet get hold of an Orange Wednesday code and you might be able to get two tickets for less than a fiver - leaving spare change for a packet of wine gums.

Button canvas/heartsBe the next Damien Hurst for less than a fiver

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5

Create your own minimalist art by sewing pretty buttons on shapes on to a blank canvas.

Chilli oilFor those who like it hot

Buy/make: Make it it.
Cost: £3

A firm festive favourite, oils and vinegars are a cinch to make for pals, especially if making in bulk.

Alice in Wonderland treatsTake your recipient down the rabbit hole

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5

Make your own 'Alice treats'.

A chance to win the jackpotA once-a-year flutter

Buy/make: Buy it.
Cost: £1-£5

Lottery scratchcards or tickets make great gifts. They're something people might not buy for themselves and could just be the best gift they ever receive. Who knows, they might even share their winnings if they're lucky enough to win!

Family photoFrame an old favourite or take a new one

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £4-5

Often, everyone's too busy having a good time at Christmas to get together for a family snap. But giving photo frames to the whole clan is a great reminder and allows everyone to remember a happy time toegther.

Homemade recipe bookEasy reci-peasy!

Buy/make: Both.
Cost: £3.50 for A6 notebook

Grab a pretty notebook (Paperchase has some nice ones) and line its pages with a few of your favourite recipes.

If you're any good at art, you could add some illustrations (or cheat by cutting some nice pics from magazines). You could make a date to cook one of the recipes together.

Personalised framed family treeA gene-ious prezzie idea

Buy/make: Buy it.
Cost: £4-5

Spark your child's creativity by getting them to help you make a personalised family tree, perhaps to be passed down the generations. There are loads of family tree templates online you can print off and fill in. Or you could try drawing your own. Frame it in a cheap frame from Wilko or Ikea.

Dress-up napkinsNecktie napkins for dishevelled diners

Buy/make: Buy it.
Cost: £5

Give your men-folk a subtle dressing-down while simultaneously dressing them up, with these paper necktie napkins. A pack of 20 costs £4.91 on NPW and contains four different designs of necktie, allowing the wearer to look as though he's made an effort to dress for dinner.

Scented sugarA girly gift that's cheap and sweet

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5 for three

Jars of scented sugar go for at least £5 a pop in shops, but you can easily make them at home for a third of the cost.

Ideas for kids

Activity scrapbook A homemade pack full of activity ideas & materials

Buy/make: Both.
Cost: £3-4

This is a great gift for children, but parents will be grateful too, come a rainy day. Just gather activity ideas from books and the web, such as scientific experiments and how to make your own jewellery.

Chocolate slabHotel Chocolat, eat your heart out!

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £2-5

Chocolate slabs cost £7+ in posh chocolate shops, but irresistible homemade equivalents are super-easy and cheap to make.

Reindeer droppingsAKA delicious balls of fudge

Buy/make: Make them.
Cost: £4

Don't worry, they're made of fudge. Use one of the many recipes on the internet to make the mixture, then when almost set, roll it into little balls to resemble reindeer droppings. Pop them in cellophane bags, sprinkle on some 'snow' (icing sugar) and label them "Fresh Reindeer Droppings".

Ingredients for Eton Mess Yummy treat for sticky little hands

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5

This is cheap, easy to do and will delight any nippers who love to make a mess and enjoy sugary treats (pretty much everyone under 10).

Personalised selection boxAll their favourite chocs in one box

Buy/make: Buy it.
Cost: £3+

Chocolate selection boxes are synonymous with Christmas. But chances are you won't get all their favourite choccy bars in one set. What if they love Cadbury Buttons and Maltesers equally?

Story cubes game Dice with pictures on each face to spark story ideas

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £3

Foster would-be writers' imaginations with a story cube, a dice with pictures used to make up stories. They're flying off the shelves this Christmas, but the good news is you can make them for next to nothing.

Hot chocolate cones Cute hot chocolate gift sets

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5

Take some nice hot chocolate (look out for offers in supermarkets) and spoon it into a cellophane cone (you can buy these on eBay) until half full.

Freebie friendship bracelets Make DIY kits or just DIY

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: free

Finally, a great use for the little ribbons sewn into women's clothing (designed to help you hang things). Either plait them into bracelets yourself and give to children. You could even make up do-it-yourself kits, complete with instructions. A great way to keep children and adults alike occupied on Christmas Day.

Treasure hunt Hide the presents for a fun Christmas morning

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £5

Christmas brings out the inner child in most of us, making this treasure hunt great for children and adults alike. Hide mini chocolate bars around the house with clues attached to each one, eventually leading to the recipient's Christmas present.

Bake-it-yourself kit All the ingredients for a great bake

Buy/make: Buy it.
Cost: £5

The great thing about this baking kit is that it can be really simple or more involved, depending on your skill, time constraints and budget.

Paint-your-own bird box A DIY present for twitchers young and old

Buy/make: Buy it.
Cost: £1.33 each (£11 outlay)

These mini bird boxes are designed for children to personalise with brightly coloured paints and would make great Christmas presents for other children and adults alike. What a tweet!

Share in a farmyard via Oxfam A charitable gift bang on budget

Buy/make: Buy it.
Cost: £5

For a fiver you can teach your child about charity giving by buying a bit of a farmyard on their behalf. The donation to Oxfam will help provide communities with livestock, which will produce enough eggs, milk and fertiliser to benefit many families. If you like that, yule love our rundown of wonderful and weird Charity Gifts, which includes how much goes to good causes.

Personalised magnetic scene Stick it on the fridge for hours of fun

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £1-2

These personalised magnetic games are great fun for kids to play with. (Due to the small pieces, they’re not suitable for under-threes.)

Wooden toys Traditional toys kids will love

Buy/make: Buy it.
Cost: £5

Traditional toys can still make great gifts. Check out the wooden toys available for under a fiver at The Wooden Toy Catalogue (delivery's £4.99).

Balloon surprise A winning entry from 2005 we still love

Buy/make: Make it.
Cost: £1-2

Young children don’t value your gifts based on the price - often being more interested in playing with the wrapping than the gifts - so don’t shell out big bucks without need.

A perennial favourite of the contest is the balloon box. Get a huge box, fill it tight with blown-up balloons, then wrap it. It’ll be the most adored few quid you’ll ever spend – though carefully supervise it so burst balloon-bits stay out of little mouths.

Please keep them out of babies' reach as balloons can choke young children.