Gift-Giving for Less :: Get Crafty and Creative with VarageSale Finds


The countdown to holiday gift-giving has begun. Your list is long, but your wallet is slim. There’s no way you’re going to be able to give all the gifts you want … or is there?

RudolphLast month I told you about VarageSale, a new buy-and-sell site with the personal touch of your neighbor’s yard sale. Seller profiles are linked to Facebook, so you know you’re buying from a real person; and you can keep track of several items until you’re sure you want to buy. I used the site to buy a bed frame for my son; we love the bed and I saved a bundle. Now you can use VarageSale to check off the gifts on your holiday to-do list — if you’re willing to get creative.

Following is a list of DIY gifts that you could make from actual VarageSale finds. All these items were listed in the “Trash and Treasure in Sumter” group within the last month. They might still be there — check out the site and see what you can find!

For the Budding Chef

VarageSale find: Big ’90s entertainment center, $45

vs_entertainment center

What to make: Play kitchen

play kitchen
Buh-bye, oversized entertainment center; hello, Top Chef training ground.

Play kitchens are popular with boys and girls, from toddlers through elementary school. But they can also be expensive. There’s another way, though: If you’re willing to get creative, you can make a custom kitchen out of a bulky 1990s-style entertainment center. The television shelf can be turned into the range and sink (cut out an opening in the shelf and set a bowl or dishpan in it). Use cabinets for refrigerators and freezers, and turn drawers into ovens. You can get as detailed as you like with paint, fixtures and handles; maybe add a window or an additional shelf above the sink. This kitchen comes from the folks at; click over for a tutorial, or check out this gallery of furniture-turned-kitchens at

For the Fashionista

VarageSale find: T-shirt, $2


What to make: Scarf, onesie, cloth diaper cover

t shirt scarf
This cheerful scarf started life as an oversized T-shirt. Quite a reincarnation, eh?

Scarves are an easy way to dress up an outfit, and you can never have too many. But a closet full of them can add up to major dollars. Solution: Make your own. Blogger Robyn at The Pink Peony of Le Jardin made the ruffled beauty above, and there’s no sewing required. Let that settle: No. Sewing. Required. The fashion angels just sang a song of joy, right? If you’re a little more gifted with a needle than I am, you can also sew T-shirts together to make a muffler-type scarf, or you can make a romper for your little one. To truly get some use out of those old duds, you can make cloth diapers from old T-shirts — now that’s what I call dedication.

For the Active Child

VarageSale find: Tires, price negotiable


What to make: Play area

tire mountain
Who’s going to be king of the hill? Your kids, that’s who.

Most of us remember tire sandboxes from our childhoods. But today’s kids have bigger and better tire playgrounds. I swiped the photo above from Pinterest; though I searched for a long time, I couldn’t find the original source or a tutorial for this massive tire climbing structure. But you can probably figure it out: find a clear area, set out a layer of tires, bolt them together, fill with mulch, repeat. The folks at Small Potatoes have information on the best way to paint tires, or you can leave them plain black.

For the Doll Lover

VarageSale find: Hard-sided suitcase, $5

vs_suitcaseWhat to make: Portable dollhouse

Her dolls will live in style, even if they never travel far.

If your little one’s dolls like to be on the go, a suitcase with handle makes a perfect portable home for them. Paint the outside with chalkboard paint, as blogger Cintia at My Poppet did, and you can change up the home’s exterior whenever you want. You could also decoupage or use acrylic paint to create a more permanent image. And when playtime is done, furniture and dolls fit inside the case so it can all be put away neatly.

For the Artist

VarageSale find: Puzzle, $3


What to make: Wall art, best friends necklace

puzzle art
With a swipe of the paintbrush, old puzzle pieces become found art materials.

You’ve seen them for sale: puzzles that are perfectly good except for that one missing piece. This makes them less than ideal for family puzzle time, but the pieces can make great crafting materials. If you have pieces of different sizes from several puzzles, do what artist Miriam Nolte did and sort them by color, then arrange them on a blank canvas. (You could also paint the pieces before putting them on the canvas, if you have a specific color palate in mind.) There’s no wrong way to arrange the pieces; just move them around until you find a blend of colors you like. If your pieces are of similar size, choose two that fit together and make a set of best friends necklaces, like every middle school girl did in the late 1980s. Paint them, punch small holes in the top, and fit them with a small jump ring (available at craft stores). String them on a chain and voila! Matching jewelry for your little one and her bestie.

For the Sentimentalist

VarageSale find: Wristwatch, $5 and up


What to make: Photo bracelet

watch craft popsugar
What time is it? Time to turn family photos into stylish accessories.

I hardly ever wear a watch anymore — with a clock on my phone, in my car, on the oven and in just about every room in the house, there’s just no need. And I seem to be in good company, because there are a lot of old watches to be found on VarageSale. Follow this tutorial from PopSugar and turn an old timepiece into a lovely, sentimental piece of jewelry. This would be a great gift for a little one who’s starting preschool or daycare in the new year; put your picture in it and she can have a bit of you there with her. Or make one for yourself, with a picture of your mom or grandmother, or another supermom in your family tree. On a day when you’re wishing for bedtime at around 10 a.m., the picture will remind you that this, too, shall pass.


And there you have it — half a dozen ideas for creative, inexpensive gifts. Check out the offerings on VarageSale and see what you come up with — you never know what’s out there until you look.

What’s your favorite DIY holiday gift? Let us know in the comments.


** Disclaimer: Columbia SC Moms Blog was compensated for this post, but all views and opinions are proudly our own.

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As a writer and editor, Marian Cowhig Owen made her living crafting – or at least striving for – perfect prose. But motherhood taught her quickly that there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. It’s a lesson she’s learning over and over every day. A Midwesterner by birth, Marian lived in North Carolina for 14 years before her husband’s job brought the family to Columbia in fall 2013. She and her preschooler have quickly found new favorite haunts in the Midlands, including Saluda Shoals Park, EdVenture and the Irmo branch library. In her spare time, this NPR junkie also sings, bakes and does needlework. She’s recently taken up running, with an eye toward her first 5K race in the fall. And as for that perfection she’s been seeking? Her Pinterest boards are very carefully curated.


  1. Hi Marian, I just wanted to write to you and tell you how much I enjoyed reading your blog. It absolutely made my day! You are SO very very creative (and I’m not! … lol). I am one of the administrators, along with Debbie Mason Weible, on the Varagesale group Trash and Treasures in Sumter, SC that you mentioned in your blog. Thank you so much for the shout out! We are thrilled that you are enjoying the group and are finding some great deals and bargains. Debbie and I are very grateful for all the wonderful members of our little ‘community’. We love ya’ll! We are now about 8,600 members strong. It truly, truly brings us great joy to be able to help our friends and neighbors save money and earn extra spending money for the household by selling items they no longer need. It’s a way that we can give back to our community in a small way. Merry Christmas to you and yours! God bless you.

    • Thank you so much — I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the post. It wasn’t hard to find material for some creative ideas — VarageSale has so much to offer! I’m looking forward to my next “shopping trip.” Hope you’ll keep reading the blog!


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