This DIY installment of Rookie’s holiday gift guides is a double whammy: Not only will these tutorials leave you with excellent, personalized offerings for your mom/dog/crush/mailperson, but YOU get the present of crafting them yourself. What could be more fun than whiling away some time by tinkering with scissors and glue and feeling good about the fact that it’s for the sake of GENEROSITY? How virtuous of you to do this super enjoyable thing!!! Not only are they a saintly, pleasant use of your time, they’re also very easy. Let our girls walk you through how to give the most unique gifts to your people this year!

Esme’s I.O.U. Fortune Teller

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This is an amalgamation of two DIY ideas that I have leaned on heavily through several penniless holiday seasons: the fortune-teller greeting card and the I.O.U. voucher. Holiday cards in the shape of fortune tellers seem kinda arbitrary, but if you come from the kind of family where you’re encouraged to give each other pieces of handmade junk instead of gifts you actually want or could use (see, for instance: the year my mom made everyone in our family hand-sewn dolls out of scraps of old socks and T-shirts), why not go the extra mile and spice up your sweet li’l greeting card with a wholly unnecessary fortune-teller format, just for fun? ’Tis the season, after all!

I decided to incorporate one of my other favorite gifts into this one: I.O.U.s are like a second currency in my family. Come Christmas morning, the air is thick with personalized gift vouchers fluttering back and forth between cousins and siblings too broke or scatterbrained to shop for each other, which then turn up all year long in cabinets or behind couch cushions. Their appeal lies in fact that I.O.U vouchers cost no money upfront if you’re using them to promise certain object gifts to be exchanged after payday (clothes/books/trips to the nail salon, etc.). Even better, they can also cost no money at all if you can think of something more valuable to offer than anything you might find at the mall. Half the fun is coming up with your own commodity: a voucher offering to take the recipient’s turn to go out and buy the milk for breakfast was a big one in my fam for many years, as was the one promising to do all the holder’s dishes for a week. These can be a little sly, if you like: Back when I viciously trolled my younger brother at every opportunity, I would print minuscule disclaimers on the backs of his vouchers saying stuff like, “Only redeemable between the hours of 5:11 AM and 5:14 AM on the third Wednesday of August of every fourth leap year after 2025 A.D.” (I would only point these out when he tried to cash in on my “offers” to do his chores.)

You can promise virtually anything imaginable depending on who it’s for: home-cooked dinners; trips to the movies; endless foot rubs; WHATEVER. Taking a minute to make an actual thing the recipient can open, read, and hold, rather than just a voiced I.O.U., always makes me feel a tiny bit less like a huge, presentless flake. If you’re trying to get hella crafty, join these two genius “get out of being that guilty-looking guy on the holidays” card ideas together for the ultimate adventure in paper gifts!

What you’ll need:

  • A blank piece of paper folded into a fortune teller—here’s a little DIY.
  • A pencil
  • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils (optional)

How to do it:

Step One:

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Hold your blank fortune teller in your nondominant hand and sketch out your ideas super roughly. It doesn’t have to be neat, but make it clear. It’s good to lay out where exactly you want stuff to go.

Step Two:

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Lay it out flat and sketch the outside of it in more detail.

Step Three:

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Draw your message/voucher design on the innermost part of the fortune teller.

Step Four:

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Fill it in and color it as you see fit. Voilà!

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I made this one for my roomie pretty Christmas-y. It doesn’t exactly work as a technical fortune-telling fortune-teller—but hey, it’s more fun to play with than your standard Hallmark joint! With this project, you’ve not only bestowed the sentiments of a homemade card upon your loved one, you’ve also taken them on the RIVETING adventure that is the operation of a fortune teller (they’re just so fun to open and close!). At the end of it all, they unfurl your exquisitely-folded masterpiece to discover the thought that REALLY counts inside. Man, what a giftie!