Give some personal flare

Most of us are on pretty tight budgets these days, which has more people than ever looking for inexpensive gift ideas. Instead of going cheap and buying someone another five-dollar fleece throw (as warm as they are, they are sort of impersonal), try putting your own skills to use.

Not everyone has the talent of my woodworking cousin, who has made things like table trays, mantel clocks and cutting boards all of us over the years, but everyone has at least one thing they’re good at.

Here are some other memorable gifts I’ve received in recent years:

  • Homemade Pumpkin Chili from another cousin, complete with the recipe. It was frozen, easily transportable, and so delicious that I’m looking forward to making it again very soon.
  • My niece and nephew’s framed artworks.
  • The cool yarn Christmas wreath my sister-in-law made me that I’ve been dying to put up this season.
  • Personalized ornaments.
  • Glass coasters (the ones you’d put photos in) with individual pastel drawings instead of photos, from my sister.
  • Handmade jewelry from another cousin.
  • The hat a non-knitting friend made for me on a knitting loom.
  • Framed scrapbook page with photo of my newborn nephew and me.
  • Kitchen task lights installed by (and from) my brother.
  • Framed felted piece made by my sister.

Still not sure you can make a great gift? Worried you won’t have time to make gifts? How about these ideas:

  • Duplicate a favorite photo – Copy the photo, pop it into a simple frame and give it to someone who can appreciate the memories. One year I copied photos of my paternal grandparents at their jobs — he was a train engineer, she was a telephone operator – and put them double frames for my sister, brother and cousin. (Perfect photos for a home office.) Another year I found an old photo booth strip of my sister and me as little kids, put it in a simple landscape frame that could be turned on end and gave it to her.
  • Make a favorite recipe – Cookies are great, but change it up like my cousin did with the pumpkin chili. That froze well, but unfrozen perishable foods can be “wrapped” in insulated lunch bags. Look for a large recipe you can split among several people. Spiced nuts, chai latte and peanut brittle are a few edible gifts I’ve enjoyed in years past.
  • Offer your time – If you’re good at DIY projects, offer your time and skill with things you’re good at. It might be painting a room, planting a garden, moving heavy furniture, shoveling snow – anything you think the recipient might like a little help with.
  • Print some coupons – A friend who doesn’t cook much loved my homemade veggie burgers, so I gave her a coupon to redeem at a later date. My sister loves  Fudgy Bonbons, but they’re best fresh, so when she visits her in-laws for Christmas, I usually give her a coupon to redeem for a fresh batch.
  • Make plans – My grandma was always hard to shop for – by age 90 there wasn’t much she didn’t already have. One year my aunt & uncle and dad decided to take her out to lunch on alternating months throughout the entire new year. Grandma always loved going out for lunch, so I’m sure she enjoyed that more than a more traditional gift.

I try to give some homemade or handmade gifts every year. Sometimes they might not quite hit the mark, but when they do it’s a great feeling, like hearing how much some folks look forward to my chocolate almond toffee each year, or arriving at my cousin’s house on Thanksgiving and seeing he’s wearing the socks I made him last Christmas.

Even better? When you start getting special requests for handmade items.

What are some fun homemade gifts you’ve given or received over the years? Why are they so special to you?

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About Paula Hendrickson

I'm a full-time freelance writer with an addiction to yarn, cooking and all kinds of crafty things. I come from a long line of creative and entrepreneurial types on both sides of the family, making creativity almost like competitive pursuit.

Posted on November 25, 2012, in Christmas, Creativity, Family, gifts, heirlooms, Projects and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Mark Hendrickson

    Paula, really well done post here. I like the face that you served up solid ideas for any reader looking for thoughts about what they might be able to make.

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