Checking out holiday gift baskets at HomeGoods, this author noted how insanely expensive they are but also how crazy-easy they would be to make. And (value added) you can personalize homemade gift baskets plus make them super-cheap, like under $5-$8. Here's a guide to personalizing gift baskets for whichever of the winter Holidays you celebrate. Give Christmas gifts that pop but don't bust the bank.

Plan, plan, plan

You did hear "plan," right? Make this Hannukah or Christmas season a gift basket year and design one for everyone on your shopping list.

Check your calendar for upcoming events and birthdays. Give gift baskets as birthday presents, graduation gifts, bridal shower, and wedding gifts. This enables you to purchase baskets and filler items in bulk and get better prices.

Use a creative container

Gifts don't necessarily have to come in a basket. Select a container appropriate to the theme. For readers use a tote bag. Fishermen get a tackle box. Sports enthusiasts can use a cooler. Pack students' Christmas presents in a backpack and artists' in a portfolio. Newlyweds will love a filled picnic basket wedding present. Find cheap collapsible totes from Dollar Tree and Walmart and free or insanely cheap tool boxes or bags (with coupon) from Harbor Freight.

Make a gift basket chart

List each recipient, occasion (wedding, Christmas, Chanukah, baptism, Mother's Day, birthday, or Father's Day), and date you'll need the gift basket. Next to each name, note personal hobbies, things he collects, her interests, favorite activities, foods, etc. Theme each recipient's gift basket based on interest: coffee, readers, Detroit Tigers, or knitting.

List specific gifts to include in each basket.

How to fill baskets

Each gift basket should contain a related book or magazine, food item, beverage, game or activity, an item of clothing, toiletry, a tool or utensil, and an accessory, tool, or specialty items. Using this pattern helps coordinate basket assembly. A baking basket for the holidays might include a cookbook, spices, an apron, and utensils all placed in a large mixing bowl.

Line with new dish towels or wrap items with dishcloths and tie with kitchen twine and two wooden spoons with recipes written on them in permanent marker.

How to get cheap basket fillers

Gather gifts all year long to score deals and check off items on the chart as you go. Get rock bottom prices tracking sales and discounts, hitting closeouts, using shopping apps like Ibotta, shopping bargain bins, and clipping coupons online at Retail Me Not. Buy in bulk and take advantage of rebates and rewards programs. For example, get cheap school supplies at back-to-school sales. Stock up on crayons, markers, glue sticks, and crafts sets. Use for children's birthday present baskets, Easter baskets, and stocking stuffers.

Where to score best deals

Shop Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Toys R Us, TJ Maxx, Menard's, Victoria's Secret, Sears (Shop Your Way), Staples, Big Lots, Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Amazon, Dollar Tree, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Harbor Freight, Claire's, Family Dollar, Dollar General, and Target (use Cartwheel app). Check Amazon and eBay online. Don't forget secondhand bookstores and thrift stores. Sign up for email updates. Watch for sales on needed gift basket items.

Get free stuff

Watch for Freebies. Harbor Freight gives out free stuff when you buy an item. Use them as gift basket fillers. Regift new items you didn't want or can't use. Get buy-one-get-one items and give the second as a gift. Use Swagbucks and Bing Rewards from Microsoft to get free gift cards for doing simple things like taking surveys or watching videos.