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Mostly Homemade (and Frugal!) Gifts Practically Anyone Can Make - The Non-Food Edition
Report to Moderator Old 06-02-2011 03:22 PM
MMC Editor
Views: 62,216
Replies: 0
By Kate Mulinix

Homemade gifts from the heart are often the most loved, especially if you put some thought into them and match the gift to the receiver's personality and enjoyments.

It's easy, however, for costs to spiral out of control if you need a lot of specialty items. The other drawback can be that many require special skills or special tools. If you don't have the tools, you'll have to buy them, and if you don't have the skills, you're out of luck if it's getting too close to Christmas. It's easy for a homemade gift to cost more than a bought gift from the store!

However, we've compiled a list of ideas for homemade gifts that can be done both frugally and with few special skills. Most of these ideas would fit most people. Another idea to save money is to plan a "Vintage Christmas," where all gifts given have to be pre-owned, used and/or frugally homemade.

Four tips before we jump into the list:

1) Put at least as much thought into what you're making for whom as if you were buying the gift, because these aren't returnable.

2) Start thinking about what you're going to make for whom as far in advance as possible, to take advantage of finding the purchased parts of the gift on sale, with a coupon, or even better, on clearance. You don't have to start making them way in advance if you don't want to (or can't, in the case of some food items), but you have to think about packaging and containing whatever you're giving, and that can add up quickly if you aren't frugal about it.

3) Give a lot of consideration to choosing consumables and memory-, service- or experience-based gifts. Stay away from decor items in general, unless you are really certain you know the person, their tastes and how they like to decorate--and they really could use what you're giving them. Otherwise you run a greater risk of giving something that feels like an obligation rather than something they enjoy.

4) If you really can't do homemade, try homemade by someone else, via a site like Etsy.

Giving of your time can be extremely appreciated. Consider making "reverse gift certificates," where the gift certificate is given back to you to be redeemed. Ideas include baby-sitting, massages for your significant other (promise to learn more through how-to videos, such as on YouTube, before you give the massage), pet walking or sitting, or household chores for someone not in your household, such as a housecleaning.

Another related idea is to promise to provide extra help prepping for a party if they're going to have a graduation, confirmation, etc., in the next year. They can put you to work as they need--chopping veggies, cleaning the bathroom, and generally being at their beck-and-call the couple of days before and/or the day of the event.

If they like to garden, especially if they have a harder time accomplishing some tasks due to age or physical limitation, you can give coupons for work. Examples include "30 minutes of brute force," "30 minutes of back breaking labor," and if you have a truck, "one truck load hauled."

Everyone needs to clean, but many people don't realize how frugal it can be to make your own cleaning products. Put together a "green" cleaning package (because making your own cleaners is greener, too) made up of a few cleaning products that are homemade, add a micro-fiber cloth or two (reusable, and therefore money-saving in the long run over paper towels), and the recipes you used. A simple and very frugal recipe for all-purpose cleaner is 1 c. white vineagar in a spray bottle topped off with water. Get a basket to put it all in from your local thrift store (or your own basement or attic), and wrap it in a kitchen garbage bag. Fold down any excess in the bag and tie it up with a ribbon so that they can use the garbage bag after they open your gift!

Flowers are a refreshing site in the middle of winter, and you can grow multiple gifts for only a few dollars each. Buy a vase (or re-purposed drinking glass) from the thrift store, add rocks from your yard, and bulbs from a hardware-type store. Don't fall for the special "kits" on display, they're more expensive than doing it yourself. Get the flowers growing in advance and you have a fresh hostess gift or gift for someone who has everything. (Note: Paperwhites are a popular option; they have a strong scent that we weren't very keen on, but some people love it. If you know that they like strong smelling flowers like lilies, this is a safer bet.)

Photobooks are great for people like great-grandma, who has everything she needs but would love to show off her family. We did this in my family by the cousins all chipping in a few dollars and contributing photos (and you could also figure out what each person should pay without you contributing since you did the bulk of the work). There are at least a dozen reputable companies as of Christmas 2010 that offer deals on this as Christmas gets closer. Some photobook companies offer buy 1, get 1 free on their photobooks, which you can take advantage of by making a book filled with highlights from the past year and get multiple copies of it for each set of grandparents.

If you have friends or family in far off places, exchange digital photos of a place or time when you've been thinking about the other. It's a very personalized idea and costs basically nothing, and makes the recipient very happy.

Compile a slideshow/movie with free software you likely already have on your computer. (iMovie and iDVD are for Mac, and Windows Movie Maker is for PC). You can find resources and how-tos for free on-line, including other software, royalty-free music, and graphics. Then you only need to buy DVDs to burn your show, which are only a couple of dollars with a case, or less if you find them on sale! If you don't have a DVD burner on your computer, ask around to find someone who does, and then just take your files to their computer on a thumb drive and then burn the movie.

Another memory-related gift that is very low tech is a Memory Jar. Write your favorite memories of experiences or qualities of the recipient on small slips of paper, fold them up, and put them in a jar. Tell them to pull them out one at a time, perhaps one per day for a month or one per week for a year. This is an especially heartfelt gift that requires little money to pull off, and just a bit of remembering.

For families, give a Question Jar. Type up a list of questions, double spaced, and cut out each question. Make them all approximately the same length, then stand them up in a jar you purchased at a thrift store. Add a tag with ribbon that calls it the "{Family Name} Dinner Time Question Jar." They take a question--or more than one--out each time they have dinner together, and everyone has to answer it. Once the question has been answered, they can put it aside in an envelope tucked out of the way, until all the questions have been answered, and then they can start over again.

There are crafts that don't require much crafting ability that are still great ideas--and of course, frugal! Check out these for inspiration:

Travel Activity Tray for Kids

iScarf - get a cozy, no-pill fleece for the main part of the scarf that can be finished without any sewing; just a bit of handstitching for the iPod pocket

Cookie Cutter Beeswax Candles - beeswax sheets are easy to work with and can be purchased at the big craft stores - and check out the decorated matchboxes that coordinate

Memory Lane Photo & Frame - scour thrift and antique stores for the decorative pieces of jewlery

Spa gifts like Bath Fizzies & Lip Balm - great for producing a bunch at once for multiple gifts

Monogrammed Hand Towels using paint - find the towels on sale or at an antique store

Tea Cup Candles - purchase the tea cups at the thrift or antique store

Etched Glassware (including snowflake ones!) - get the glassware at the thrift store

What ideas do you have? We'd love to hear about them!
This article is copyrighted. Use of this article in part or whole is strictly prohibited. For reprint, quotation, or excerpt use please contact Merry Network LLC.

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