Without a doubt, the season of giving is tough on our wallets. As we struggle to find the optimal balance between cost-effective and thoughtful, we run into challenges on both fronts. If you're strapped for cash, keep in mind that your options extend beyond maxing out your credit card. This year, instead of buying something thoughtless but economical, or budget-breaking yet thoughtful, leverage your talents to create your own gifts. Even though we're bordering on last-minute shopping crunch time, here are six ideas for gifts with stellar returns. (For other gift ideas, check out 9 Meaningful Holiday Gifts.)
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics
Although we spend most of our lives at work, wedged in cubicles, and face-forward connected to computers, we still need time to appreciate the beautiful world around us. Photography empowers us to do just that. Beyond what we see at face-value, it's amazing how cameras bring unique perspectives to life. Instead of going out to buy an expensive poster print, snap a quick high-resolution photo, and make your own. With photography, you can give a gift that combines the best of beauty with the best of your personality.
If you've been shopping this season, you've likely noticed that handmade scarves, hats and sweaters are very much in style. Instead of splurging big money on designer knits, make your own. Physically and metaphorically speaking, the gift of warmth is always well-appreciated. Plus, you can teach yourself a new skill in the process.
Cookies and Candy
Who doesn't love a homemade holiday sugar cookie? Just when you think that you're finally full, a delicious-looking chocolate snowman will remind you that enough is never enough. Over the holidays, we're frequently consumed with stress about whether we're cooking enough or whether the food will actually turn out as expected. This year, if you're talented in the kitchen, give the gift of food so that people can spend less time worrying about baking the perfect cake or making the right candy. For this type of gift, ROI comes in the form of saved time and happy appetites - two perfect recipes for the perfect holiday.
You might think that art limits you to crayons and construction paper, but you actually have quite a few options to create an exceptionally beautiful gift. For instance, you could go to your local color-me-mine and design a custom clay pot for your loved one's plants. You could also take up a new hobby in screen printing and create cool designs for all of your friends. If you're thinking of adopting a new hobby, this is one that could definitely help you relax while creating something of value.
If you shop on marketplaces like eBay and Etsy, you know that handmade jewelry is in high demand. Unlike department store styles, DIY jewelry is exceptionally unique, and if you enjoy crafts, you could really enjoy this holiday project. To get started, see if any local bead shops are available in your area. Typically, these types of shops offer classes in addition to supplies, to walk you from the beginning to the end of your projects.
Love to decorate? If so, this last-minute holiday gift is a definite must. On the day that you celebrate, gather the family to make ornaments and home décor together. When done, display them on your tree, mantle, table, porch, bookshelf or all of the above. Head to your local art supply store for all the glitter, puff paint, pipe cleaners, lace, cardboard and modeling clay that you could possibly need. Given that you can reuse these keepsakes year after year, you'll always remember the stories that went into their creation.
The Bottom Line
The best inspiration for creativity will come from your heart. If you're worried about walking the fine line between frugal and stingy, think outside of the box for an exceptionally unique and thoughtful homemade gift. Most importantly, you won't feel like you're making sacrifices for your wallet. After all, the value of the holidays stems beyond materialism and consumerism.