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Frugal Answer: Make Your Own Holiday Gifts?

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I made this half-pony half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the feeling that you don’t like it
What’s with all the screaming?
You like monkeys, you like ponies
Maybe you don’t like monsters so much
Maybe I used too many monkeys
Isn’t it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?

  — Skullcrusher Mountain by Jonathan Coulton

The typical frugal solution to the holiday gift problem for the anti-consumerism attitude is to make your own gifts for your friends and family. I’ve considered doing this back when I was earning less than the cost of working. However, MP Dunleavey thinks making your own is one of the worst holiday gift ideas.

At some point, the Spirit of Frugality will pin you to the floor and tell you that the best way to save money during the holidays is to make all your gifts by hand. Resist this impulse! First of all, just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean you have talent.

Very true. But isn’t it the “thought” that counts?

Second, handmade gifts always cost more than you think, in both time and money. My truly talented sister-in-law, Deirdre, decided to make people jewelry one year. She quit when she found out how much it was costing her in supplies, never mind the all-nighters spent stringing tiny beads.

I’m not sure MP has completely convinced me that making your own gifts is always inappropriate. It can be a personal gesture in some circumstances. A friend of mine is great wih fabric and for my birthday she made me a set of pillowcases and pillows for my couch, using fabric matching my existing living room “decor.” I thought the gift was great, but she does have talent.

Have you ever given a handmade gift? Received one?

Published or updated December 17, 2006.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

I LOVE handmade gifts, and I’m a guy (stright). One of my favorite gifts is a scarf that one of my friends made for me last year. I also love any homemade food. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I like things that are unique, that not everyone is going to have. I think the fact that someone actually makes it for you means so much more than anything someone can buy.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

I received a scarf from my sister who was just learning to knit. It was nice, no dropped stitches or anything. She was still in high school at the time, and it was a good way for her to get practice and not have 300 scarves lying around.

We also received a wedding scrapbook from my sisters-in-law, and it was a kitschy piece of junk. We keep it hidden in a closet.

I’m with MP on the homemade stuff, unless you’re a talented or crafty person.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

I made my mom a quilt one year – and I’ve made friends handbags and sachets and scarves. I think the scarves were a little scary, but the quilt was actually beautiful. Whenever I visit my mother I actually marvel at it and am shocked that I could make something like that. Bottom-line, even if you do have talent doesn’t mean the people in your life want that kind of gift. Do you think my brother-in-law wants a handbag? I don’t think so.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

I’ve posted about only giving handmade and usable gifts to people who I know will appreciate the time and effort.

That said, I love getting handmade and usable gifts from my mom and sister because they make great stuff!

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avatar 5 Luke Landes

Trixie: You reminded me, I received a handmade scarf from my girlfriend’s sister one year. It was perfect. I needed a scarf and it looks great.

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avatar 6 Anonymous

I’ve made homemade jams in unusual flavors – spiced blueberry – homemade truffles/chocolates and given them in gift baskets. I’ve also done the knitted gift – blankets, scarves, wraps. Stained glass suncatchers. I’ve also made pottery – plates, mugs, vases. The pottery was probably the least expensive gift I’ve made. The clay doesn’t cost a lot and it’s not time intensive. Knitting is probably the most expensive; lots of time and yarn isn’t cheap.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

I have received a few handmade gifts (greeting cards, photo album and similar stuff) and I think they make better gifts than off-the-shelf stuff. I don’t care how well (or how badly) they are made the sentiments count a lot.

I have given just one hand made gift in my life, it was a watercolor painting I did a while back. Lets just say that people who received it will never forget it :)

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avatar 8 Anonymous

I do tons of handmade gifts–aromatic pomanders, marble magnets, and knits–but I stick to the stuff I’m good at, and I make sure to package my gifts attractively. The idea is to give a good gift, one that’s both thoughtful and pleasing to the recipient, not just to give a cheap gift.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

I have a friend who gave me an absolutely gorgeous scarf after she learned to knit. However, it was made of very loose and fuzzy yarn, and so it would leave yarn lint over all my clothes. Since I wear a lot of black, this was a problem. Even so, I’m trying to figure out a way to use it decoratively, because it is so pretty.

The same friend also made me a handmade soap this year which I like a LOT, and really enjoy using.

I haven’t made too many handmade gifts. The most recent involved collecting some old college pictures and putting them into a small photo album. My former roommate is out of the country for the next few years and I thought she’d appeciate the memories of home.

So I guess my feeling about homemade gifts is that they should fit into the lifestyle of the recipient.

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avatar 10 Anonymous

I’m not particularly crafty, but I do like to make presents for people. When one of my friend’s got engaged, I made her a blanket, that was over three years ago, and she still talks about how much she loves it. She’s having a baby, so I told her I wanted to make her a baby blanket and she got so excited.

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