Category Archives: Diy

Simple DIY Christmas Gifts On A Budget

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I love a good deal. I mean, that should come as no surprise since I am a budget strategist.  During the holidays budgets can kind of take a backseat with all the stress we put on ourselves. I love the idea of a few simple DIY projects to make for people. You can find a ton of great ideas over on Pinterest that can help take some of the financial stress off you this time of year. I usually make one to two different gifts by hand for family each year. That way I can make sure to give something with meaning all while sticking within my Christmas budget.

For us, especially with J back in school this year, Christmas is more about being present with family. It’s not about the presents we give or how much we spent of our family and friends. To be honest, this year has probably been the least stressful holiday yet. We know how much we can spend on Christmas gifts and that’s it. It has made justifying what we spend (or how little we spend) a lot easier in our heads. We’re able to treat everyone equal – from his family to my family. Everyone has the same budgeted amount based on our gift guide.

Here are a few of my favorite past DIY Christmas gifts:

Personalized Oven Mitts

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Easy Sharpie Mugs

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Personalized Photo Frame

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Front Door Wreath

DIY Wreath, DIY Christmas present, how to make a wreath

Personalized Wall Art

DIY nursery wall art, DIY nursery decor, DIY boy nursery

Christmas Photo Ornaments

DIY Christmas photo ornament how to

What are some other DIY Christmas gifts that you love to make for family? Leave a comment below!

How to Make Gift Bags from Wrapping Paper

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It never fails – we’re running late and should have left the house 20 minutes earlier.  Our son has decided that he doesn’t want to wear shoes, our dogs know something is up and are following me through the house, I have a gift to wrap before we leave and I can’t find a big enough bag.  

Luckily there is a trick you can do to turn wrapping paper into a gift bag that is just the right size.  Plus, it only takes a few minutes, which is perfect for me since I’m almost always running late and never seems to come easy this time of year.  

I created a quick video you can watch online or below to see just how to make gift bags from wrapping paper.

This technique comes in super handy around Christmas time. I don’t know about you, but it seems that gift bags cost so much more than a simple roll of gift paper.  So to save money, just buy a few extra rolls of paper and make a few bags to have on hand for those last minute gifts.  The gifts will be unique and impressive, but at the same time you’ll be saving money!

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DIY NASCAR Costume for a Toddler

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This family loves NASCAR (well actually J loves it and I’ve learned to like it over the past 5 years). When it came time to decide on a Halloween costume for Dent, we agreed on a race car driver outfit.  Of course he had to be our favorite driver, too – Tony Stewart.  

I started searching online and the prices were ridiculous! $30 for a Halloween costume?!?! … No thanks…

The ones at Walmart weren’t NASCAR themed and had way too many fake muscles for my liking. Why do we have to put fake muscles on everything for little boys… what kind of message is that sending?? I don’t know, but I didn’t care for it.

Then I decided to just make a DIY NASCAR costume for our son.

I even gave myself a budget of keeping it under $15.

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I headed to Walmart where I had hopes of finding a solid black sleeper, but wasn’t in luck. Then I found a long sleeve shirt and sweat pants that were under $4.00 each, so I spent less than $8 for the outfit.

Next we headed to Hobby Lobby to try to find some ribbon with a checkered flag. They had one kind and it was $4.00, but with a 40% off coupon it came out to be $2.40 for the spool. Perfect.

I knew I had some fabric glue at home, so I decided to just use it. I washed the clothes once we got home and then got to work. I took the ribbon down the sleeves, sides of the shirt and pants, which didn’t take long at all.  I let it dry overnight just to be sure the glue held.

It needed just a little bit more so I bought some iron-on transfer paper for less than $8.00. I googled Tony Stewart to see what type of sponsors he had on his uniform and went from there.  Once I decided on a few brands, I googled their logo and then uploaded them into canva.  I saved the sheets as a PDF and then printed them on an inkjet printer. 

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I had never used iron-on transfer paper before so I was a little unsure of how good it would turn out, but I followed the directions to make sure I was doing it right. It does say to wash it after 24 hours and turn it inside out, but honestly I didn’t.  I figured since I already washed the clothes when I bought it that it would be fine.  Now after he’s done wearing it then I will wash it, but I don’t want to take the chance of the transfer coming off in the washer.

Overall I spent right at $18.40 for the whole outfit.  I wasn’t under my $15.00 goal, but I only used two of the sheets of transfer paper so now I have it for next year’s costume or some other craft project down the road.  So I still consider it a win!

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We headed to a trunk-or-treat earlier this week and had a blast.  Dent loved getting candy from everyone and showing off his outfit.  We’re planning on walking around the neighborhood on Halloween. I can’t wait!

DIY Dog Emergency Kit

DIY dog emergency kit

With three dogs running around our house at all times, J and I have finally learned what we need to have on hand.  You see, if all of our dogs were like our sweet Maggie then we would have no problems.  They would sleep under the bed all day, eat their dinner like a good girl and then cuddle up next to you on the couch.  

DIY Dog emergency kit

dog emergency kit

But the other two dogs….

Well let’s just say they are the complete opposite of our Maggie girl.

….oh Tiny and Bud.  Those two are a bit crazier than most.  They run, they tackle each other, they slide into the door and then they run around outside.  So it’s inevitable that these two would get hurt.  We like to keep a dog emergency kit on hand to be prepared for those little emergencies.

One of the last time we left town, we dropped the dogs off with this amazing lady who takes care of them.  Each dog had a great time and she even spent time with Bud on doing some training.  He was doing great.  I got to work with him and see which command words worked for him.  Then I took all three dogs home.  We get in the door and I realized Tiny was missing her collar.  Normally that isn’t a big deal until I noticed Bud was expelling the neon green collar from a not so pretty place.  Then he started choking and coughing, a lot.  We rushed him to the vet and after a few X-Rays we learned it was in small pieces and nothing was wrapped around any organs.  He would naturally expel the collar.  Yay!

Okay, okay so that story really had nothing to do with a DIY dog emergency kit and why you need one, but it is a reminder to always pay attention to your dog.  I’m adamant about making sure everything is okay and their habits are running like clockwork.  Bud is still a bit young and has a lot of learning to do.  He’s not afraid of anything, which is not always a good thing.  He’s more curious than anything.  So with him, I’m especially careful when he starts acting a little different.  

The little emergencies are the ones we can treat at home.  A nip here, a scratch there, etc.  I talk so great about Maggie, but when she was a young pup she got into a whole brand new container of birth control pills.  Plastic, foil wrapping, pills and all.  I called the emergency vet clinic and luckily because she was female and I could find majority of the pills they weren’t too worried about the pill ingestion.  They knew and warned me it would make her sick, but not fatal.  They were more concerned about the consumption of plastic and foil.  So I had to induce vomiting.  Thankfully they talked me through it and all was fine, nasty, but fine.  

Around our house, we see quite a bit of these little accidents, especially in the summer.  Something about the warmer weather has our dogs stir-crazy so they end up outside a lot more.  We put together this easy to use dog emergency kit that has really paid off.

Here’s what we have in our DIY dog emergency kit:

  • antiseptic wipes
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • gauze pads
  • medical tape
  • self-cling bandage wraps
  • q-tips
  • cotton balls
  • disposable gloves
  • tweezers
  • phone numbers to your local veterinarian’s office.  Ours even has an after hours line for emergencies, that’s in there too
  • ASPCA poison-control center hotline, which is 1-800-426-4435
  • leash – we use the freebie we received from the vet awhile back.  It’s not the nicest, but with the loop that goes around the neck, it’ll be the easiest to use in case of an emergency.

I went to the Humane Society’s website and found this article.  Luckily, I had most of what they were recommending on my list.  They do have other items too that would be great to have on hand.

dog emergency kit

I would highly recommend creating a dog emergency kit for yourself to have.  I mean, with some adjustments this would work for your cat, too.  We just don’t have any cats – darn allergies!  These little guys can fit nicely into a small plastic tote and then be sealed, labeled and stowed away until they are actually needed.  

I would also suggest setting a reminder to go through your kit each year.  Throw away anything that is out of date and replace any used or old product.  I have a alert in our Google Calendar for each January to go through ours.  

DIY Sharpie Mugs

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What do you do when you have a ridiculous early flight out and need a ride?  You bribe your sister and brother-in-law to take you to the airport.  Well technically I didn’t need to bribe them, but I still wanted to say thanks for getting up super early, driving us to the airport and still making it to work on time.  

Of course, I was trying to stick within our budget especially with our Florida vacation that we were flying out to.  I opted for a simple homemade gift.  I love homemade gifts.  I have made quite a few over the past few months.  Usually I save them for Christmas, but I’ve been known to break out my crafting skills when the occasion calls for it. 

Seriously – I have an addiction to homemade gifts.  

Here are just a few of the others I’ve made over the years.

DIY Front Door Wreath

DIY Ribbon Wreath

DIY Mother’s Day Picture Frame with handprints gift

DIY Father’s Day with Handprints gift

DIY Christmas Picture Ornaments

Let’s get back to this DIY project – making Sharpie mugs that are super easy. 

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All you need is a plain mug and a few sharpies.  The best sharpies are the oil-based Sharpies, but when you don’t have them then you make it work.  You can be as creative or be as basic as you want.  I wanted to keep the message simple – best aunt ever and best uncle ever.  

Once you have the design on your mug, just let it dry for a few hours.  I let mine dry overnight before baking.  After a few hours then you can bake it at 350 for 30 minutes.  

TIP: Put the mug in the cold oven before turning it on.  Once the oven hits 350 degrees then let it bake for 30 minutes.

These mugs should be hand washed (even if using the oil-based Sharpies) to help preserve your design.

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These mugs turned out so cute!  Totally makes up for the early flight, right?  That’s what I was thinking! What thank you gifts are your go-tos?

DIY Grandparents’ Day Gift {Personalized Oven Mitts}

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Do you know what is not easy?  Getting a toddler to hold still long enough to put paint on their hands and then take that painted hand to press on an oven mitt.  It’s just not easy!  Don’t get me wrong he loved the part of smearing his hand in the paint, but then he wanted to play with it and not cooperate.  I’m pretty sure I got more paint on me then on the oven mitt or even the plate filled with paint.  

We wanted to create a sweet Mother’s Day gift for my Mom and my Mother-in-law this year.  We were getting ready to leave on our Florida vacation the next day so I wanted something that we could easily create and something that would be easily packed in our already filled car.  

I had been scouring Pinterest for a few ideas and I just love the ones using our little guys hand and feet prints, but I have to admit it was so much easier to get a perfect stamp of his hand or foot when he was just a newborn.  Now at a year old, it’s like wrestling a really strong monkey who makes noises at you and somehow overpowers you.  

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To find these oven mitts I went to the local Big Lots to see what they had.  I had planned to go to Wal-Mart, but Big Lots is so close to our house and I like keeping things simple!  I paid $6.00 for each set, so it was a little over $12.00 with tax.  Next, I dug in my craft bin (which is actually a old tool box) for some green paint and some fabric paint to finish them up.  

These DIY oven mitts were so simple and so easy (minus the toddler making messes).  I made them for Mother’s Day, but you could even make them for Grandparents’ Day or even as a sweet Christmas gift. I just love making homemade gifts – nothing says I love you like taking some time out of your busy schedule to make something.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not super crafty and I am not a perfectionist, which means a lot of my gifts don’t turn out the cutest.  Once our little guy is a bit older I can pawn off the workmanship on him so there will be a good reason as to why the paint is smeared or the something is misspelled.  

Here’s some of my other easy and budget friendly DIY projects:

DIY Sharpie Mugs

DIY Front Door Vine Wreath

DIY Ribbon Wreath

DIY Christmas Photo Ornaments

DIY Father’s Day Gift with Handprints

DIY Mother’s Day or Birthday Gift with Pictures and Handprints

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Funny story – this past Christmas I made a super sweet wall hanging for my Mother In Law.  I took our little guy’s footprints around this nice poem I had typed.  I then framed everything together in this beautiful frame.  After we gave the gift, they were passing it around reading the poem and looking at it.  Someone in the family noticed the poem was about Grandchild’s Hand and the hope for the future…. But I had stamped our son’s FOOTPRINTS on the paper.  What?!?! I don’t even know what I was thinking!  

I remember trying to get his handprint while J held him and he just kept fighting me.  Each attempt was worse than the one before.  The print was smeared or I didn’t get a whole print.  So after what felt like a thousand attempts, I just did his feet.  But it never occurred to me I needed to change the poem!  UGH!

Oh well.  Now I just had to change the poem (which I still haven’t done yet) and the gift will be just fine.  

DIY Father’s Day Gift

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Father’s Day is about two weeks away and it’s time to treat the special man in your life to something nice.  If your kids Dad is anything like J then they deserve it.  Last year I wanted to create something special for him since it was his first Father’s Day and honestly, money was a little tight.  After NICU bills, physical therapy sessions, and so on I knew the gift needed to be something I could create with what I had on hand.  I thought about doing a DIY Father’s Day gift to add a little personalization to it so it would be special for years to come.  

I went to Canva.com and created a simple image that just said Happy Father’s Day.  Then I printed it out.  I even made it in black and white so I could print it at home on our laser printer.  

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I updated the image to this year’s Father’s Day so feel free to click the image above to print out.

Once I had the image printed, I went to Hobby Lobby to look for a frame.  I had a gift card leftover from my birthday so I used it towards an 8 by 8 frame.

I headed home and dug out some ink I had from our wedding a few years ago.  We did a thumbprint painting as our guest book and I purchased several different color ink pads.  I kept them knowing I would use them one day.  I waited until Baby was sleeping then I pressed the ink pad on his foot then onto the page.  I repeated using his hand, too.

The ink pad made it really easy to use.  I didn’t have to worry about spilling paint everywhere and since it was what we used for people’s thumbs at our wedding I knew the ink would come off easily.  I had a wet wipe ready and as soon as I pressed his foot and hand onto the page I was able to clean him up.

I then made sure the prints were nice and dry before sealing into the frame.  I think the gift turned out great and it will be neat to have such a keepsake for years to come.

DIY Mother’s Day Gift or Birthday Gift

Affiliate Disclosure: I am grateful to be of service and bring you content free of charge. In order to do this, please note that when you click links and purchase items, in most (not all) cases I will receive a referral commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. Your support in purchasing through these links enables me to continue to offer you lots of free stuff. Thank you!

DIY mother's day gift, DIY birthday gift for mom, DIY photo gift

I wanted to treat my Mom to something special for her birthday and Mother’s Day last year.  I know, I know I can’t believe I am just now getting around to sharing what I did last year! #momissues

Our little guy was right around a month old, I was still struggling with the recovery from my c-section, I was tired and learning to adapt to this whole motherhood thing.  My Mom was great (a little overwhelming at times, but what new Grandma isn’t), she had really helped with the Baby and there were a lot of days she would just bring me lunch and sit with me for an hour.   When it came time to start thinking of Mother’s Day and her birthday, which is just a few days later, I knew I wanted to do something special for her.  Our son is my parents’ first grandchild and they were over the moon with excitement for him, so I knew he had to be a big part of her gift.  That’s why I wanted to create a DIY birthday gift for her.  

Honestly this gift can be created for a birthday, Mother’s Day or even Father’s Day gift.  Heck, it would even work for Grandparents’ Day.

J and I were trying to mind our budget, like always.  And with medical bills and some home projects our money was pretty tight.  I had to put on my thinking cap and come up with something creative that wouldn’t break the bank.

DIY birthday gift

I headed to Hobby Lobby and came across this pretty picture frame that holds three 5×7 images.  Luckily it was on sale and was 50% off.  After taxes I paid a little over $13.00 for it.  You can find the exact same frame on Amazon for less than $16.00 if it’s just easier to order one.  I typically buy everything on Amazon, but for those last minute items I tend to go shopping in-person.  

Once I saw the frame, I decided I would do something similar to my DIY Father’s Day gift I created for J.  I created a simple image using canva.com.  They had the heart image under the elements heading and under the shapes tab.  I then added his name, the month and year to remember when it was done.  

DIY mother's day gift, DIY birthday gift idea

I came home and used the same ink pad that I used in J’s gift that was leftover from our wedding thumbprint tree guestbook.  I simply pressed his feet into the heart by overlapping his heel prints.  I let it dry then placed it into the center frame.  I used plain printing paper so there wouldn’t be a problem with the thickness when I tried to close up the back. 

I then headed onto walgreens.com to upload a few pictures.  I of course googled a coupon code and found one for 40% off.  I ended up paying less than $3 for the images.  I placed them in the remaining slots and that was it.

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I updated the image so feel free to download the DIY Mother’s Day PDF or click the image above to print. 

So for right around $17.00 I created a really sweet and memorable Mother’s Day gift.  My Mom loved it and she still has it proudly showcased in her home.  I have plans to do personalized gifts for both grandparents every year – that way they can get gifts that show off how their grandson is growing and I know they’ll be gifts they want to have around.  

DIY Birthday Party Decorations

Affiliate Disclosure: I am grateful to be of service and bring you content free of charge. In order to do this, please note that when you click links and purchase items, in most (not all) cases I will receive a referral commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. Your support in purchasing through these links enables me to continue to offer you lots of free stuff. Thank you!

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For our little man’s party I ended up creating most of his decorations.  I searched on Pinterest (you can check out my board of inspiration) for tons of ideas.  Then I went to start looking at buying the decorations.  Whoa!  Those prices were big, at least in my book.  I knew if I wanted to provide lunch for everyone then I wouldn’t be able to afford all of those fancy decorations.  So I took what I saw on Pinterest and made it myself.  You can make your own party decorations, too.  All you need is a little bit of planning and some creativity.  I swear you can create most of the decorations for a fraction of the retail price.  

I want to have an Honest Abe moment with you…. If I had the extra room in my budget and wasn’t worried about saving money then I would have just purchased everything we needed because it would have been easier.  I didn’t spend but a few hours making everything, but it would have just been easier to buy it all; however, that is not my reality.

Before I go any further I need to say… 

I am not the most crafty person in the world. I lose my patience easily.  I am all about progress not perfection.  Also, after looking at the party pictures I realized that I did not do the best at taking pictures of my decorations.  I was so pressed for time and then when the party came I was enjoying my son and our family and friends.  

Now with that being said let me share with you my DIY birthday party decorations. 

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I created a photo wall using a net I ordered off amazon for less than $6.00.  I took a gamble ordering this decorative net because I couldn’t specify which color I wanted.  But after reading the reviews and seeing the prices of the other nets, I decided to roll the dice.  I was so happy I did!  I ended up with a yellow one, which was perfect.  Honestly any color would have been fine and I would have made it work.  The net was huge and I wound up cutting off a portion I needed.  I didn’t use the rest of it and now I have it tucked away for a future party.  

I used clothespins that I already had on hand to hang the pictures and then used some leftover fishing line from when J went fishing a few weeks ago.  I found these bobbers on amazon for around $4.00 and had my friend help me string them to the net.  

The pictures were part of the package our photographer gave us from our family shoot a few weeks ago.  

I then placed our kitchen table in front for a place to gather the gifts.  This wall cost me about $10.00 to do.  Not too bad.

Then over on the food table I ordered a table cloth from amazon (because everything comes from amazon!).  This striped plastic tablecloth was perfect.  I actually ordered two, but since it was windy we decided not to cover the tables outside.  They were only $2.99 each (the price actually has lowered when I was writing this post!).  Since it was so cheap, I decided to hold on to the one I didn’t use and the one we used was still in perfect condition, so I wiped it off and folded it up.

I made a few food decorations using canva and some construction paper.  I already had the dowels and the papers so after I printed them in color, I cut out the images, glued to the construction paper and taped to the dowels.  I think they turned out perfectly!  I even created them as PDFs so you can download them yourselves.

I purchased a tackle box from walmart for about $8.00 and used those to place the gummy worms, Twizzlers and Swedish fish in.  Now that the party is over J has a new tackle box he can use!  I’m the best wife ever!

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The smash cake was probably the easiest decoration I made.  Two pieces of construction paper, a dowel and tape was all that was needed.   I even shared how I made his smash cake for only $3.00.   After we took our family photos a few weeks ago I learned just how much our little guy doesn’t like cake.  I think the icing is too sweet for him.  So I didn’t want to spend too much on his cake, including decorations.  In the smash cake pictures, the cake topper (the one I spent over an hour creating) was the first thing destroyed and ripped.  I learned my lesson!  For the party I kept it simple.  

I took a red and white piece of construction paper.  Then using my compass from the 6th grade (yep, I still have my compass that we used in beginning math class with the original pencil!) I drew a circle on each piece.  If you size the circles correctly you should be able to get 2 circles from each color, and I used the second one for the high chair.  I then cut the white piece in half and using a very old glue stick I put it together.  After I was finished I realized I forgot the top part of my bobber, so I used red scraps and made it work.  After it was glued, I took a black marker and wrote “the big one”.  I used regular tape to stick the dowel on and that’s it.

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For his high chair pennant, I took some orange tissue paper I had on hand and cut it into strips.  Then I tied the strips to some blue gift ribbon (I couldn’t find my twine and I was tired of looking so I improvised).  I then cut out a circle using red and white construction paper, glue it together and took a black marker to it.  I think it turned out wonderful!

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Outside we decided to not do any decorations since it was windy.  We had two canopies set up and our little kiddie pool for the kids to play with.  The kiddie pool was a huge hit!  I bought a magnetic fishing set which came with 2 fishing poles, 2 nets, a blow up pool (that we didn’t end up using) and tons of fish, sharks, and food (weird, but they were probably the favorites) pieces.  Now the party is over, little man has lots of new bath toys to play with.  I bought the pool for about $8 from Wal-Mart and the set was about $25 on Amazon.  

That’s it!  That’s the DIY birthday party decorations we created for our little guy’s first birthday.  I was all about keeping it simple, doable and within our budget.  To keep you on track, I talked about how I stayed organized by using this handy checklist.  

DIY Smash Cake for the First Birthday

gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines Please, please don’t try to look up smash cakes on Pinterest.  You will see some of the prettiest cakes ever created and then you will get it in your head that you can be that talented.  It’s a lie!  You can’t.  At least I couldn’t.  A few weeks ago I attempted to create my own smash cake.  I baked the cake, I made homemade buttercream icing and I pipped a design onto my cake.  It was awful.  The icing was drooping, the color was more mint then blue and it looked awful.  I asked J for his honest opinion and he said “maybe you should save your homemade cake for the party and order one for his pictures.”  I knew right then and there my cake was a disaster.  

I ordered a cake from the local bakery for our little guy’s pictures.  The cake was beautiful and so simple.  

I knew it was going to be a big deal if his party cake wasn’t as nice as his picture cake.  I still wanted it to look good and decided to take a different approach.  I went with easy instead of making it hard on myself.  That way if it didn’t turn out I could blame that.  Instead the cake turned out great!  It was a lot better than my first attempt.  Not as pretty as the bakery made cake, but not too shabby either.  

As he O-Fish-Ally turned one last weekend, we celebrated!  I wanted to make sure we saved money where we could and one of the best ways to do that is by baking your own smash cake.  Trust me!  There is no need to go out and buy a made cake that your little one is going to destroy in 2 seconds.  Unless of course you want to and have built in your budget.  I’m all about saving time and money, but I also know that not everyone enjoys baking.  So if it’s not your thing, then please go right ahead.

gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines

Here’s how I made a DIY smash cake on a budget:

I purchased a boxed cake mix that was on sale for $1.00 (gasp! boxed cake mix!… I know, I know).  I also purchased two cans of icing that were on sale for $1.00 each.  I already had the oil, eggs and water.  So my DIY smash cake only cost me $3.00.

I used two round cake pans to bake the cake, after they cooled I then took a bowl to cut out a smaller portion of each layer.

Once I cut out the portion, I popped the cake into the freezer so it would be easier to ice.

I took one can of icing and used it to do the crumb coat and the layer between the cakes.  I then popped it back into the fridge for about 10-15 minutes.

The second can of icing was the one I added some blue food coloring too.  I had about 6-8 drops to get the right color blue.  I then iced the rest of the cake.  

I added my DIY cake topper and that’s it!

gone fishing birthday, diy smash cake, first birthday party, birthday party on a budget, meredith rines

Super simple.  I baked the cake on Friday night so it would be nice and cool on Saturday.  Plus I knew how hot it was going to be on Saturday and I didn’t want to have the oven running in the morning heating up the house.  So I opted to bake on Friday night.