In theory, making all your holiday gifts sounds great. Not only will you save money but your recipients will be charmed and love that you put so much thought and effort into your gifts and not only that, you’ll be striking a blow against materialism and consumer culture.
Except when that doesn’t happen…
No matter how good it sounds in theory, not every homemade gift will be loved and appreciated. Sometimes it’s because the recipient is an ungrateful brat. Sometimes it’s because the holidays are hectic and things get overlooked. And let’s be honest, sometimes it’s because the homemade gift giver just didn’t put enough thought into it. It’s also far from a given that it will wind up saving money and keeping you out of the store.
To give your homemade gifts the best chance of being loved and appreciated and frugal, ask yourself these questions first.
1. Can I really pull off the project I have in mind? It’s charming when small children gift you with lumpy, bumpy, non-traditionally tasteful creations. When a 32 year old with a degree in accounting does it? Not so much.
You don’t have to be perfect and I would agree that part of the charm of homemade things is that they are not so polished, but at the same time, if it’s something that you expect others to wear, display or eat, it’s best to have a certain level of competence before deciding to give your creations out as gifts.
2. Do I really have the time? I don’t think that most close friends and family members would be that put off by an I.O.U. a scarf or blanket that you haven’t quite had time to finish. By the same token though, planning homemade gifts that take more time to make than you have leave you at risk of showing up empty handed or doing a last minute rush to buy presents (on top of the cost of materials for the incomplete projects!) so that you aren’t the only one without presents to put under the tree. And let’s be honest, if you haven’t had the time before Christmas, will you have it after?
Before deciding on making everyone in your family hand-knit sweaters or painting their portraits in oils or something similarly time-consuming, think long and hard about how much time you really have to devote to this project. It might be better to decide to do these gifts for birthdays or anniversaries instead so that you can spread it out through the year.
3. Does anyone really want this? Really? That probably sounds snarkier than it’s meant, but the truth is, most of us have more clutter than we know what to do with. A homemade gift that we have no use for and that doesn’t fit our décor or lifestyle just adds to that with the added burden that most people would feel extremely reluctant to toss out something a friend or relative made. It’s a waste all around, so be brutally honest with yourself instead of hopefully optimistic when deciding if your homemade gift idea will work.
4. How much will this really cost? Craft supplies can cost quite a bit of money. Using recycled and re-purposed materials can cut down on that, but you can’t always rely on finding what you need when you need it. Going into sewing, crafts and hobby stores can be dangerous to the budget. It’s so easy to come out with far more than you intended to.
If you plan on making food gifts, the price of many ingredients is set to skyrocket this year. Warehouse stores and shopping sales with coupons can save you quite a bit, but it still might add up to more than you’d estimated. It’s a good idea to allow yourself a great deal of wiggle room when setting your budget for buying ingredients and supplies.
5. Will the recipient really appreciate this? There are some people in our lives that just aren’t very gracious or are materialistic. If your feelings will be hurt, you will be embarrassed or if it will cause family drama if your recipient rejects your gift, consider taking to heart the saying “cast not your pearls before swine” and getting them something safe and generic instead (or skipping them altogether if it won’t cause trouble).
What You Can Do Instead
If it turns out that making homemade gifts isn’t in the cards for you this holiday season, here are some things you can do instead to save money and keep the emphasis on friends and family instead of consumerism.
- Buy used gifts (I know of many families who have decided to do this with great success, the key is to get everyone on board).
- Do a gift exchange to keep the list manageable.
- Decide to do something special as a group instead of exchanging gifts.
- Donate to charity, either in their name or as a group project.
The important thing is to put some thought into whatever you decide to do for your friends and family before making decisions. Your heart might be in the right place with your homemade gifts, but don’t get so carried away with the idea of having a warm, cozy homemade Christmas without considering more practical aspects. Sure, it’s the thought that counts, but remember, your friends and family are not mind-readers – don’t give them gifts that will confuse and distress them!
What are your thoughts on homemade gifts? Always a do, no thank you or proceed with caution?
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