Make vs. buy

We pitted craftiness against consumerism to see which gifting strategy saves the most money-and sanity.

Snow globe

Make it...

Time spent crafting: 30 mins
I purchased all of my supplies (glitter, superglue and a ten-piece plastic dinosaur set) in one fell swoop at Duane Reade (5423 Second Ave at 54th St, Sunset Park, Brooklyn; 718-439-4879). Putting them together (in washed-out condiment jars) is a cinch: Superglue a dino to the inside of the jar’s lid, and then fill with water and glitter once the glue’s dry.

Cost of materials: $10.89

Frustration level: T. rex and glitter? For me, this was a dream project. No frustration here.

Yields: 10 SNOW GLOBES (If you have 10 condiment jars kicking around, that is)

Buy it...

Time spent shopping: A little under 2 hrs
Hell hath no fury like the after-work crowd at a Target (139 Flatbush Ave between Atlantic Ave and Fourth Ave, Fort Greene, Brooklyn; 718-290-1109, It took me a while to locate this precious holiday tchotchke, and once found, I spent 30 minutes in three separate checkout lines that didn’t budge before spying an express lane. Plus, it took me an hour to travel round-trip.

Cost: $20

Frustration level: On a scale of one to six, I’d say a 4. The mass confusion, crying babies and pushy customers made me feel like I was standing on a breadline in Communist Russia.

Yields: 1 SNOW GLOBE

—Erin Wylie


Drop earrings

Make it...

Time spent crafting: 3 hrs
Most of my time was spent scouting bead stores. Save precious minutes and go straight to Toho Shoji Inc. (990 Sixth Ave between 36th and 37th Sts; 212-868-7465, for all of your basic supplies and a decent selection of beads, like these little yellow ones. Then, hit up Suma Beads Gems & Pearls (66 W 37th St at Sixth Ave, 212-904-1690) around the corner for the pink ones.

Cost of materials: $63.45
The real kicker was finding the pink beads, which I could get only in a strand of 36 for $36.84. With more supplies than expected, I went a little overboard and made pairs for all of my girlfriends.

Frustration level: A barely annoying three. Once I got all of the materials, I sat in front of the TV—Gossip Girl on DVR!—and banged them out.

Yields: 18 PAIRS

Buy it...

Time spent shopping: 2 hrs
The line at Anthropologie (85 Fifth Ave at 16th St; 212-627-5885, was killer, as always, but I still managed to keep the entire trip to two hours.

Cost: $28

Frustration level: About a four, thanks to the irritating Bluetooth-wearing girl ahead of me in line who didn’t seem to understand the concept of an “inside voice.”

Yields: 1 PAIR

—Jessica Strul


Russian tea cookies

Make it...

Time spent baking: 50 mins
The nearby Morton Williams (130 Bleecker St between Greene and Mercer Sts; 212-358-9597, isn’t too crowded on Sunday afternoons, so it took only about 20 minutes to get what I needed. And, because the recipe simply requires mixing dough and rolling it into balls, I made two batches in 30 minutes flat.

Cost of materials: $16.94

Frustration level: One. Only because I hate doing dishes.

Yields: 28 cookies

Buy it...

Time spent shopping: 25 mins
Eight minutes away, Batch (150 W 10th St between Greenwich Ave and Waverly Pl; 212-929-0250, sells similar cookies, only they call them Walnut Melts. A short walk and an even shorter wait in line, and I was back on my couch in about 25 minutes.

Cost: $59.17

Frustration level: I’m at a pissed level five. The buying process was easy, but it’s irritating knowing that, at $1.95 per cookie, I was paying more than twice as much what it cost me to make them.

Yields: 28 cookies

—Lisa Freedman


Ribbed scarf

Make it...

Time spent crafting: 14 hrs
I confess, I’m a knitting virgin. Luckily, the fine folks at Knit New York (307 E 14th St between First and Second Aves; 212-387-0707, offer two free lessons when you buy $50 worth of materials. It took me 14 hours to make, but now I can relate to my grandma!

Cost of materials: $53

Frustration level: A very comfortable three. It was rough at the beginning, but once I got the hang of the looping and swooping, I was a knitting machine.

Yields: 1 SCARF

Buy it...

Time spent shopping: 1 hr
It took me about an hour to get to Forever 21 (40 E 14th St at University Pl; 212-228-0598, from my East Village apartment, shop and get back home.

Cost: $9.80

Frustration level: That area—and store—is supercrowded no matter what time of day you go. But at least I got to treat myself to a Whole Foods snack on the way home. That made my frustration level drop to a two.—JS

Yields: 1 SCARF

—Jessica Strul


Scented Candles

Make it...

Time spent crafting: 2 hrs 20 mins
It was a painful two hours gathering supplies at Target and W C Art & Drafting Supply Co (351 Jay St between Myrtle Ave and Willoughby St, Brooklyn Heights; 718-855-8078). I lugged home two ceramic mugs and four bowls, two pounds of beeswax, candlewicks and lavender fragrance. It only took 20 minutes to make two large candles and four tea lights.

Cost of materials: $36.43

Frustration level: An argh-inducing level five. Research revealed that a lot of my initial ideas (making candles in a seashell or flower pot) were actually dangerous. Glass and ceramic are the safest containers. When they were dry, the tea lights appeared storeworthy. But the large votives looked handmade in a bad way. And I’m still scraping wax off my kitchen counter and floor.

Yields: 6 CANDLES

Buy it...

Time spent shopping: 2 mins
It’s a two-minute walk from my apartment to Carol’s Daughter (1 South Elliott Pl at DeKalb Ave, Fort Greene, Brooklyn; 718-596-1862,, a store that sells scented soy candles for $28 each and, on a Friday afternoon, has a favorable ratio of staff to customers.

Cost: $28

Frustration level: Just barely registering as a one on the scale. Only really crappy weather could make this a chore.—Maridel Reyes


—Maridel Reyes

NEXT: Splurge! >>




Make vs. buy

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