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Last-Minute Gifts: Where the ‘D’ in DIY Stands for Digital

With the credit crunch and layoffs, expect to receive a lot of homemade gifts this holiday season.

Christina Cheddar-Berk

It’s so popular, that Amazon.com even made DIY tools one of its Holi-daily deals, with the tagline, “Cutting back can be beautiful.”

Of course, beautiful is subjective and you know how crazy crafters can get, so try to smile politely at the tin of sugar-dusted prunes or candied orange slices in a mason jar. (Seriously. Times are tough. Be polite.)

But here’s the good news: DIY isn’t just for knitters and prune dusters. Get creative. Play to your strengths. And you can save some money in the process!

Here are some cool, inexpensive gifts you can make right from your computer — and they’ll be ready in time for Christmas:

So, your sister still hasn’t organized the photos from last year’s family trip? Download the photos from her Flickr site and make her a scrapbook with professional-looking borders and embellishments using sites like Canon’s Creative Park or HP's Digital Photography Center.

You can print out the pages and bind them together yourself for a nice tactile present, or deliver them online. There are a bazillion online-scrapbooking sites, including CropMom.com, Scrapblog.com, Scrapo.com and Shutterfly.com.

Gift Guides

Make a Video Scrapbook. Oh, yeah, that’s right. You will definitely score points when you deliver a scrapbook of video and no one will have any idea you did it the night before Christmas.

Organize and edit video clips from family trips, guys’ night out or the best moments of the year, according to you, using sites like OneTrueMedia.comor Smilebox.com.

You can keep it digital, upload it to YouTube or your MySpace page, order a DVD or have it delivered to someone’s TiVo!

Make Your Own Origami.Canon’s Creative Park also has a Paper Craft section, where you can make everything from a paper peacock to a paper panda — even a paper Eiffel Tower. Just download the templates, follow 689 easy steps and voila! A panda. Er, is that a panda or a penguin?

Indeed, these paper pop-ups are slightly more involved, and you may wind up punting and making a calendar. (Which, in your defense is also an excellent gift.)

But man, if you could pull it off? Shazam! You’re the king of Christmas.

Publish Your Own Book. Everyone has a novel in them. The difference is, yours will get published thanks to Blurb.com, a self-publishing Web site that makes bookstore-quality books. Wouldn’t that be a great gift — your book? Or, you could pop those vacation photos into a great travel book “Mimi Goes to Paris” or “Jim Storms London.” You could also play publisher and compile your favorite poetry, famous quotes, funny quotes, or your quotes.

Yes, what can I say, darling? I’m highly quotable.

You could also compile grandma’s recipes in a recipe book for the whole family or a baby book starring your kid. (People always said he could be a model for Baby Gap! )

The book-making software is free, though if you want to order a physical book, they start at $12.95.

And, if you know a budding author, you can always give her a gift certificate so she can make and order her own.

Give the Gift of Yourself. A great gift that a spouse or friend will really appreciate is the gift of your time. You know, an hour of dishwashing, snow shoveling or foot rub.

Think about how much your time is worth an hour. That’s one pretty expensive gift, if I do say so myself!

You can find some great templates online — like these love coupons — but the best coupons are the ones you make yourself. Grab a piece of clip art, a photo of yourself or even a celebrity, slap a monetary value on it and a clever little one-liner and voila! You’re that guy who gives the great gift.

For even better presentation, grab a little gift box and a bow and pop the coupon in there so there’s something to open besides an envelope.

Speaking of presentation, this is single-handedly the most important lesson from Do It Yourself 101. Remember, this is really a reflection of you, so always do it with style.

If you have kids, scan their artwork and wrap Christmas presents in that. Omigosh, can you imagine how dazzled grandma and grandpa will be? Not to mention how proud your kids will be that their artwork was wrap-worthy.

This also works with photos for a customized look, or if you want to repeat one word or phrase over and over in various fonts. Try “Holly” and “Jolly” and “Christmas” or “The Best Gift Ever” or something more sophisticated like “Peace on Earth.”

And, if you’re totally spent and out of ideas, HP offers free printable gift wrap as does papergiftwrap.com.

So, no more excuses about no money. About how you’re just a procrastinator.

You have a computer. Christmas will go on.

On Dasher! On Dancer! On Creativity and Printin’!

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Questions? Comments? retaildetail@cnbc.com

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