Name three gifts you received last year. If you’re like most people, you received cookie cutter presents like gift cards or body wash, and none of them are memorable. Americans spend well over $200 billion on the holidays, much of it at commercial retail shops, as market research giant IBISWorld found in a 2010 study. This year, be the one person in your group to give unique and personalized gifts. Think eco-friendly to save money, as well.
Reduce the use of fossil fuels by purchasing gifts that haven’t been shipped across the country or around the world. Seek out local artisans in craft fairs, local shops or newspaper ads, or check Etsy for a listing of local crafters. You’ll find one-of-a-kind items, often personalized for your chosen gift recipient. Instead of an impersonal CD, send your homesick cousin Martha locally-made fudge or a local artisan’s handmade scarf.
Use Green Wrapping
Keep wrapping paper out of the landfills. Wrap your gifts in something useful that doesn’t hurt the environment. Choose bright bandanas or colorful pieces of fabric and wrap them around your gifts. Slide bottles of wine into Christmas stockings. Find presents that come with reusable wrapping or decorative vases like birthday gifts at FTD.com. You can even wrap car accessories in road maps and cooking tools in a chef’s apron. Get creative and your wrapping can be part of the gift.
Instead of searching the mall for the perfect gift, shop the local thrift stores and antique marts. Older items have the cachet of being mostly unique, giving them more meaning as gifts. Find a collection of old silk pocket squares for your uncle who always wears a suit. Create a collection of beautiful antique teacups and saucers for your sister, the tea drinker. Your brother, the nerd, would go crazy over an original metal Star Trek lunch box. The idea is to know your gift recipient, and take the time to keep searching until you find the perfect item for him.
Make Your Own
Why buy gifts at all when you can make the ultimate in personalized presents? Everyone can find some kind of talent to use when it comes to making presents for loved ones. If you’re crafty, crochet or knit some scarves or sew some reusable grocery totes. If you don’t do crafts, search Pinterest to find simple projects you can do with found objects.
As a last resort for the hopelessly inept, there’s always simple edible and drinkable gifts. Make bottles of infused vodka and bottle them with handmade labels. Make cookies with refrigerated dough, but decorate them yourself for that homemade touch. Melt chocolate chips and pour the liquid into plastic molds for special holiday chocolates. If you give a gift that looks like you took the time to create it, your friends will value it that much more.