Before You Decide to Make Homemade Gifts This Christmas…

by Tracy · 11 comments

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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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • tracy says:

    It is hard to decide who likes what and whether they will appreciate the gift.

  • Robert says:

    I think for an ungrateful child you can give them a gift that says “A donation was made in your name to the human fund” if you have seen Seinfeld you will know what I mean.

    My family sticks to store bought gifts as well. Remember you can always shop at the dollar store and still make most children happy.

  • Jean says:

    My family used to bake stollen for our neighbors every year and that is somewhat we still try to maintain but other than that, we also stick to store-bought gifts for the most part. You have to be aware of who among your friends and relatives will be appreciative of a home-made gift and perhaps only take the effort for them. It can indeed be a tough pill to swallow if someone doesn’t appreciate your effort and thought.


  • Vince Thorne says:

    I have high appreciation for homemade gifts as the person who made it put in a lot of effort in it. I certainly feel that if you are planning on something like this you will be a hit.

  • Marbella says:

    I’m really bad at organizing Christmas gifts and that know all my kids and family, but they are very happy that I give them money instead so they can buy exactly what they want.

  • shahin khani says:

    I would have to say that home made gifts have their ups and downs. the way I see it is that if you’re gonna make a gift, at least do it from the heart. One year my friend re-gifted the same gift I had given him a few months earlier. a big no no. However my younger sister made a collage of a dollar bill which was awesome.

  • Gail E says:

    I am a scrapbooker….I have learned that only my “scrappy” friends get my scrappy gifts. My own mother “doesn’t get it”…so no such gifts for her. Just cause I love it does not mean anyone else will so I put alot of consideration into it…the same goes for my handmade Christmas cards..only a select group get them, the rest get crappy store bought cards. LOL.

    • Bill Rice says:

      My wife is a big scrapbooker and card maker. She does exactly what you describe. For those that appreciate it she loves investing the time and care in making awesome homemade cards (and scrapbooks). The others get one of the grab bag of cards for $0.99 🙂

      I agree with Tracy. I don’t think homemade gifts are always the best way to save on your gift obligations.

  • indio says:

    I really don’t like putting a lot of effort into making a homemade gift and have it not appreciated. My time to make it is worth more to me than the money to buy something from a store. Having said that, I usually give food gifts because most people will likely eat pumpkin pie, chocolate bark, truffles, and my assortment of jams. Sweating it out over a pot of boiling water in summer to make homegrown organic peach chutneys, bourbon applesauce and mixed berry preserves, using bpa free canning lids, and have the recipient not appreciate it is a waste of my time. It would definitely be eaten in my household so I won’t waste it on someone else.
    I will usually do my holiday at the local thrift shop or tag sale. I believe in recycling or reusing as much as possible. I recently bought three cashmere sweaters for my sister at a tag sale. For a grand total of $6, I couldn’t go wrong, and the sweaters were in brand new condition.

    • KM says:

      I like the idea of making food gifts! I love knitting, but I don’t even have time to knit for myself or my family, let alone someone else as a gift, but assembling a jar of ingredients for cookies and tying a simple recipe to it (an idea I have seen somewhere for a gift) is a lot less time consuming and might even be more appreciated. Thanks for reminding me of this. I also like your idea of making truffles. A clear plastic box with a ribbon and tissue lining would also make it look luxurious without costing a lot.

  • Rita says:

    I have cut way back on my gift giving. I buy for my daughter, son, 1 aunt and a friend. When I worked I made a delicious white chocolate candy mix. I did it for years and some really seemed to enjoy it. Others just expected it. Others didn’t seem to care for it so I gave them something else. I am grateful for whatever I am given period. I now ask what they would like and get those items until I meet my limit for that person. Give much less candy away. I am happier because I don’t have to see the look of expectation or oh candy again on their faces which makes me sad. I made and gave with love.

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