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Make Your Own DIY Advent Calendar with Beauty Samples!

Emily Cosnotti
ByEmily CosnottiSep 29, 2016 | 51 comments


Note from Liz: The other day Emily and I were talking about how popular (and awesome) Advent Calendars are when Emily had an amazing idea… Why not make an advent calendar using some beauty samples from subscription boxes?

If you are like me and have samples you haven’t gotten a chance to use yet, or ones that just aren’t for you, this could be a great way to share them with a friend or family member in a really thoughtful and fun way!


To do this calendar, the first step was to assemble the goodies!


I went with a mix of makeup, skincare, haircare and nail polish samples. (This could also be a good way to get your favorite people hooked on subscription boxes!)

I’ll let Emily take it from here to walk you through the steps of putting your DIY Advent Calendar together!



I was able to pick up everything I needed at Michaels (get those coupons, girl) but wanted to provide links in case you wanna grab everything online.

We went with black and gold for a crisp and festive look but the possibilities are endless.

Round up your samples and let’s get making!


First, you’ll need to measure out where all of your clips will go so your gift bags are evenly spaced across your board. This took some doing but if you use the same canvas and same bag size, here’s what you’ll need to do:



From the top of your canvas, measure down 7/8″ and mark in 2 or 3 places across your canvas. Lay a straight edge or tape measure across your board, lining it up with your marks so it’s 7/8″ from the top edge of your canvas. Measuring from the left edge, make a mark at 2 3/8″, 7 3/16″, 12″, 16 5/8″ and 21 5/8″. That’s your first row!


For the next row, measure down 8″ from the top of your canvas. Make 2 or 3 marks that will help you line your straight edge so it’s perfectly straight across the canvas. Make the same marks as you did for the first row at 2 3/8″, 7 3/16″, 12″, 16 5/8″ and 21 5/8″.

For the 3rd row, you’ll start at 15 1/4″ from the top and then make your same marks across the row. For the 4th row, you’ll make your marks 22 7/16″ from the top edge. For the 5th and final row, make your marks at 29 5/8″ from the top of the canvas.


Nice! That’s the hardest part, I promise. Next, gather up your mini clothes pins and heat up your hot glue gun.


Put some glue on your first mark on your first row and quickly pop a clothespin on your glue. Don’t burn yourself!


Work across your rows (5 clothespins per row) until you’ve completed all 5 rows (25 pins.)


Time to decorate and assemble your bags.


Grab your gift tags and your sticker numbers.

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Carefully peel off your numbers and place in the middle of each gift tag. Make 25 tags numbered 1-25.


To make sure all of your bags look the same, you’ll need to fold them all the same.


I folded each of my bags to a height of 5 1/2″ inches.

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Unfold your bags, pop in a beauty sample, fold again.

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Use a single piece of washi tape to adhere your gift tag to the bag and secure your bag closed.

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Ideas for each bag:

  • A single, well-chosen sample
  • A set of items that go together like a nail polish and some acetone sheets (be careful about total weight when bundling items)
  • A beauty sample bundled with individually wrapped candies or chocolates
  • Pop some sizzle or confetti in your bags along with each sample
  • For the 25th day, you could include another sample OR a gift card and handwritten note

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For the last step, attach each bag to the canvas using the clips

Your new advent calendar is pretty enough to display!

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What do you think of our first DIY project inspired by subscription boxes? Are you thinking of making (or buying) any Advent Calendars this year?


Emily Cosnotti
Emily Cosnotti
Emily is a design enthusiast who loves beautiful objects. She's really into vegan snacks, corgis, home goods, and minimalist makeup. She is currently fostering a healthy subscription addiction.

Emily Cosnotti
Emily Cosnotti
Emily is a design enthusiast who loves beautiful objects. She's really into vegan snacks, corgis, home goods, and minimalist makeup. She is currently fostering a healthy subscription addiction.
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Brilliant idea!! Love advent calendars


What a great idea!!! I was just recently introduced to these calendars and I am hooked! Darn it !!


I’ve done a similar idea by wrapping 24 various beauty samples/hair accessories/chocolates in tissue, placing them in small organza drawstring bags, and then putting all into a Christmas stocking. Daughter hung up the stocking in her room on Dec 1st & drew out a bag per day. The bags aren’t numbered, so it is a grab-bag approach. I’ve also mailed these to friends – post them in mid to late November. You can use a fancy stocking or simple one from the dollar store.


What a wonderful idea! Christmas stockings hold a lot; I wonder, though, whether my grown daughters would open everything in the stocking the first day. One of them hates surprises and the other got me into subscription boxes and loves samples. The closed bags would likely drive them both crazy. Win win win.


To be clear, I love the more sophisticated presentation of the tiny bags in the board! ❤️(The stocking approach is just a suggestion for easier mailing ? and for my daughter I had found a Downton Abbey stocking & couldn’t wait til Christmas for her to use it!)

Julie E

What an awesome idea! I had never even heard of the beauty advent calendars before you started posting them this year but I fell in love quick! My birthday was yesterday so my husband bought me the BareMinerals calendar & I am super excited about it! Now I just have to wait a couple of months without opening all the little doors!! I love this idea though for gifts for others & for pets!!! I’m going to be using all my “not for me” samples to make a few boxes for our family Christmas white elephant gift exchange.


I simply ADORE this idea. I am going to create one for my hubby and get little things like chapstick and candy and a movie gift card. Simple yet creative…thanks for the inspiration. Love this site and all the info you share!


This is absolutely lovely and absolutely wonderful! You ladies are amazing, from reviewing boxes and finding great deals/coupons to this creative and excellent idea! I love it!

Emily Cosnotti

Thank you so much, we’re so glad you love it!


If you don’t have the time to make the holder, try googling “empty advent calendars.” There are a lot of options, some very reasonable. Also, some people (like CallaD shop) on Etsy sell PDFs ($4.75) you can print to make boxes that make a super cute advent village scene!


Thanks for the tip!


How cute and clever! What a nice way to gift something.


How cute is this!!! Well done.

Emily Cosnotti

Thank you!


I guess we had the same idea! I am making these also, only with mini boxes and bags that I picked up at the dollar store. (They look like little Chinese take out containers.)
I wanted something I could box up and mail mail, otherwise I would switch it up and do a cute hanging one like yours.

Another idea for those extra samples is to make a “Spa in a Jar”. I personalize them by etching on to a glass jar, but they are really cute in mason jars too.

Thanks for sharing your idea.


I love this idea!

I think that’s what I’m giving everyone this year!


Love this idea! Great job! The black & gold speaks to me here in Pittsburgh 😉 Thanks for posting all of the advent calendar deals too!


I made “beermas” advent calendars for my family. We take turns refilling every year.

Kelly A

I like this idea as much as the beauty sample one. I would love information on how you made it. ?


For each:
– 24 cardboard postal mailers with caps (48 total) – Buy in bulk on Amazon, definitely cheaper than an office supply.
– Wrapping paper (I made five at once, and did some serious math–tubes are a lot bigger than you’d think once wrapping!
– Green Duct tape
– Clear tape
– Glue (Hot Glue would probably work, but even just some Elmers)
– Brown and Green construction paper
– Decorations (stickers, paint, etc)
– 24 beers – I did bottles

I don’t recall what size tubes I got, but just measure a beer bottle and go from there. Could always size to get an idea at an office supply store.

I wrapped each of the tubes with the wrapping paper (with clear tape), then taped together with the green duct tape. Usually side to side along the rows (two pieces), then up to three taped on the ends (to the top, below, and the side). I found this important, because too much made it difficult to put the caps on and take them off. Be generous with the tape – I went about 1/4 – 1/3 of the way down the tube on the inside just to have some stick.

For the front (plastic caps) – I had a scrapbooker friend who had a cutting tool to cut out green and brown circles, and just glued those on. I didn’t, but I’d suggest roughing up the smooth plastic caps before gluing.

Then I just decorated them. I used a stencil and paint for the numbers, but stickers would work. Lots of stickers. I did this off season, so ebay, Amazon, and a few craft stores online were my friends.

My family gets together on Thanksgiving, and each couple brings their calendar to be refilled. Since there’s five couples (my parents, and my siblings and our SOs), it works out to just buy different six packs (we start buying early since it gets expensive fast!). But we’ve worked it out that a different couple buys each year. If just one calendar, a lot of places sell singles. Fun way to try different beers!


What are those tubes? I would love to do this for my husband.


The tubes are cardboard postal mailers, which include plastic caps for both ends. I bought bulk ones through Amazon.


Great job! And by designing the calendar myself, I’ll be able to make some countdown calendars for birthdays, weddings, etc. Love it!!


Oh, I like the idea of having a count down to a special event!


Great gift for my daughter’s birthday the first week of December. Thank you!


Great idea. Have someone else put the items in the bags so it will at least be a little surprise.


Or pair with a friend and each make a calendar for the other so that it is a surprise. Could even be a new swap if that sort of thing were allowed!


OH MY GOODNESS. I wish I had a friend who I could do that with!

Emily Cosnotti

Love the idea of swapping with a friend!

Anna C.

I was thinking about doing this with sheet masks and k beauty items because I haven’t seen one like that (yet) and that would be fun for me 🙂 maybe some chocolate in their too. I do advent calendars for the kids too!


Dying over this! Fab idea ladies!!

Emily Cosnotti

Thank you!


I love this idea!! I l’ve always wanted to make my own and u make it look so easy. I may do one for my dog 🙂 Thanks for posting this!


That’s a great idea, I may do the same!


Wow this a fun DIY. Would love to see a quick video if possible.


Ooh. Wouldn’t it be great if they also made a page where people could post their completed calendars.


Yes. That’s a great idea.?


I LOVE this and think I am going to make one of these for my daughter…THANKS for the inspiration!

Shelley Hunt

This is awesome! Now I am thinking maybe I should do this (or a small version) as a teacher’s gift! I am always trying to think of new ideas of things to give the teachers and this would be an excellent way to pare down my stash at the same time.


As a teacher, I give your idea an A+!

Liz Cadman

I think that would be an amazing teacher’s gift!


That is so pretty, and very crafty!!! 🙂

I was actually planning on doing this exact same thing to help dwindle my stash down, and as an early Christmas gift to some of my friends(!)… knowing them, they’ll most likely just open every compartment when I give it to them though. 😀

I was planning on purchasing empty advent calendars. I haven’t priced those yet, and I’m sure they’re a lot more than it cost to make yours. Can you estimate about how much the supplies would cost to re-create your advent calendar? Most likely I’ll still purchase empty ones (if they’re not crazy expensive), but I’m sure others would appreciate knowing too! 🙂 Thanks!

Emily Cosnotti

Hi Luna,

Thanks so much!

Here’s the cost breakdown:
Tags (2 packs at $4.99 each) – $9.98
Bags (2 packs at $2.99 each) – $5.98
Canvas (1 at $24.99 with 40% off coupon) – $14.99
Stickers (2 packs at $5.99 each) – $11.98
Clothespins (1 pack at $2.99 with 40% off coupon) – $1.79
Total: $44.73 + tax

The canvas can be the priciest item here but Michael’s always has a 40-50% off coupon out there. To cut the price further, you can use foam board instead of canvas. And if you have good handwriting, you can skip the stickers and hand draw your numbers.

Hope that helps!


Thank you for taking the time to provide the cost-breakdown Emily! I really appreciate it. 🙂


Omg! Love this! Can we say Christamas list is taken care of!!! Thanks guys! Very creative!

Liz Cadman

Yay!! 🙂


How fun! Love to see y’all branching out on the site. 😀

Emily Cosnotti

Thanks! We’re having a lot of fun 😀

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Our reviewers research, test, and recommend the best subscriptions and products independently; click to learn more about our editorial guidelines. We may receive commissions on purchases made through links on our site.