For many of us, holiday stress centers around one thing—money or, more precisely, a lack of it! It’s difficult enough to get basic bills paid in this economy, but finding room in the budget for a dozen or more gifts may be impossible. Before you pull out the credit card—a move you’ll most certainly regret when January’s statement arrives in your mailbox—consider hand-making a gift.
Making a gift yourself isn’t always free, but if they cost anything besides time and creativity, it’s still a fraction of what you’ll pay for name brand, store-bought gifts. Plus, handmade presents come with an extra dose of love.
Here are 10 ideas that will fill your loved one’s heart without emptying your wallet.
1. Assemble a theme basket. This gift can work for anyone—just pick something they love, and go with it. Choose small, inexpensive items that when put together, make a nice presentation. And remember, they don’t have to be put into a basket. Get creative. For example, one year I created a Movie Theme gift for my child’s teacher. I filled a $1 plastic container with the word Popcorn printed on the outside, with popped popcorn, a few movie theater-style boxes of candy, and a gift card to a local movie rental store. (This was before the days of Redbox.) The total cost was under $10 and the teacher loved it.
2. Do something they need done. We all have things that need to be done which we either don’t have time for, or we’ve put off because the project seems overwhelming. Figure out which project that might be for your loved one, and take care of it for him.
Read Related: 5 Gifts That Teach Giving
3. Snap a photo. If you fancy yourself a pretty good photographer, go snap a picture of a place she loves, of her children, a beloved pet, or even make a special portrait of the individual who will receive the gift. Don’t forget to put it in a nice frame!
4. Personalize it. Turn an affordable, ordinary item into something special by monogramming it or putting her name on it.
5. Pass it down. When I was a little girl, my grandmother had a Japanese jewelry box that I admired each time I went to visit. One year she gifted it to me, and I plan to someday pass it down to a future granddaughter. What can you pass down to your children or grandchildren?
6. Use your talents. Whether your talent is in art, music, writing, knitting, or baking—you can turn it into a gift.
7. Mix it up with a mix tape. We can’t officially call them mix tapes anymore, but the idea is the same. Make a CD or MP3 playlist for the year he was born, an era he’s fond of, or for special songs you’ve shared together. For a young niece, nephew or grandchild who you don’t get to see often, make a recording of you reading his or her favorite books.
8. Create an heirloom. Put together a book of family recipes or important family stories and make copies for everyone. You could also do this in video form by recording older relatives whose stories are often told but have never been written down. This ensures their legacy won’t be lost when they pass.
9. Go digital. So many of us have home videos that we’re no longer able to watch, or photos that could be lost in a natural disaster, fire or flood. Buy a DVD recorder to convert special home videos to DVDs, or an image scanner to make digital copies of photos.
10. Express yourself. Write a letter from the heart. Tell the person why you love him and share in detail a favorite memory you have together. You can really make the gift last by writing 12 letters and let him know he can expect one in the mail each month throughout the year.