Let’s face it — a large percentage of gifts, whether you are on the giving or the receiving end, are not really wanted or needed. Over the years, I have seen people rush around to find something/anything that “will do” for Aunt Mary or Grandpa Mike.
How much more satisfying it would be to spend a little more time and effort to come up with something that won’t be tossed on a closet shelf or into a bag destined for the next rip to the Goodwill or local thrift shop.
You’ll notice, I didn’t say a little more money. In fact, with a little more thought and effort, you may actually end up spending less money in the long run. Here’s how.
Make a List
I’m not talking about a list of gifts you could give to that “hard to by for: person. At least not yet. No, I’m asking you to make a list of five or six things you know about that person. You may come up with lots more. For an Aunt Mary, your list might end up looking something like this.
1. She loves to crochet.
2. She is always talking about her friend, Edna.
3. She used to belong to the garden club.
4. She reads a lot, especially the Bible.
5. She enjoys her grandchildren.
6. She doesn’t have much money.
Even before you finish your list, gift ideas may be popping into your mind. I’ll use my list to show you how many ideas, some of them very low cost or even free, you can generate from 10 basic statements about a person.
1. People who love to crochet are always on the outlook for new patterns. Google, “free crochet patterns,” on the internet and download enough of them to last your friend for years to come. You can compile them into a nice little book and with a comb binder to make the pages lay flat when the book is in use. Scatter a few pictures throughout the book-maybe even one or two of the person you are making the book for, diligently crocheting in her favorite rocking chair. What a thoughtful gift and it should cost you nothing but your time, a little paper and printer ink along with a comb binding. Aunt Mary, or whomever you are making the book for will think of you every time she starts a new crochet project.
2. Maybe you’ve never met Aunt Mary’s friend Edna, but you should. Why not treat Aunt Mary to a tea party at your home and invite Edna. (If you like, invite another friend or too to make it an even more festive party.) Decorate the room with inexpensive flowers from the dollar store, bring out your best china and serve a variety of tea flavors with homemade cookies, cake or pie. A great time will be had by all, and you will hardly notice the cost.
3. If Aunt Mary used to be a garden club fan, but has problems doing yard work these days, buy a few showy indoor bulbs and some potting soil for her gift. Some cute little gardening gloves and a variety of containers you may already have around the house or can pick up for practically nothing at the thrift shop will complete the package. Who says you have to have strong knees and a strong back to grow something beautiful?
4. Reading is a favorite hobby, especially of older people these days. If they read a particular genre of book, pick up several of that kind from a local book store, or give them a gift certificate to pick out their own. If the Bible is Aunt Mary’s favorite book, a small Bible dictionary, or a commentary on the Bible would be a welcome gift. If you can’t afford one of these, construct a handmade journal for them to record the books they read with columns for listing the title, the author, the date they finished reading the book, and a place to comment about the book.
After a few months, it is really fun to go back over the things you have read and remind yourself of what you did or didn’t like about a particular book so you might want to make yourself one of these reading journals while you are at it.
5. Grandchildren usually love to visit Grandma’s house—especially if Grandma has interesting things for them to do. You can help your Aunt be that kind of Grandma by giving her gifts that help her always be prepared when the grandchildren arrive.
A book with recipes that children can make is a great gift, and an even better one would be the same book along with several plastic bags containing ingredients for some of the recipes in the book. Cookie cutters in unusual shapes are always a great hit.
Left over craft items from your own projects are always welcome. You can sort them into individual containers so they are easy to use—beads, bits of lace, fabric, glue, paint, etc.
6. If your particular Aunt Mary doesn’t have much money, gift-giving occasions may find her in a bind. In such a case, you can give her an inexpensive gift that will really help her out.
Take a number of photographs of her and let her choose her favorite. Then have a number of them enlarged and printed for her. Find inexpensive frames at a Goodwill or thrift shop and let her frame the pictures to give as gifts to other members of the family. You might throw in some dollar-store wrapping paper and bows to help her make her gifts look more festive.
See how easy it is to extract gift idea from just jotting down a few facts about the person you plan to honor with a gift? If you take the time to figure out a gift for each trait on your list, you can keep the list and use it again the next time you are looking for a gift idea for the same person.
You may want to include things like their political affiliation, whether or not they have pen pals, if they drive a car, or if they are watching their weight.
Each little nugget you can list about a person will give you more ideas so that you will never have to scratch your head again, wondering what in the world to give Aunt Mary for her birthday or Christmas, right?