Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas on a Fixed Income -Part 1: The Homeade Gift

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. Since Thanksgiving, I‘ve already put up decorations, gotten out the Advent wreath, pulled up my Christmas playlists on ITunes. Unfortunately, the holiday season can also be a budget buster. Holiday meals, gifts for extended family members, occasional travel, it all adds up. What’s a person on a fixed income to do?

I enjoy giving and getting gifts, so cutting out the exchange isn’t a solution for me. I do plan and shop throughout the year, as evidenced in this column. One of the ways I provide unique, affordable gifts is by making them.

Right about now, someone who is reading this is thinking “please, no more cinnamon ornaments!” I’m not talking about cinnamon ornaments, or necessarily “crafty” gifts. Nor am I suggesting anyone go out and spend fifty dollars on supplies to make a quilted potholder. Lastly, I’m not advising a completely homemade Christmas (although it’s not a terrible idea).

What I am talking about is using the skills and abilities you have, along with resourses you have access to, to make gifts that are unique and appreciated, but also affordable. Under these circumstances, a homemade gift may have more “oomph” than a discount gift bought for the same amount. The trick is to know the likes, needs and tastes of the people you are gifting, while taking advantage of your own talents. Often people confuse creative with crafty. Everyone is creative.

As I said before, my Christmas will by no means be all handmade. There are gift cards on my shopping list, a mortar and pestle for a niece who is a chef, as well as other purchases. But there will also be homemade items in the mix, among them:

• Homemade barbecue sauces. Since I have a regularly stocked pantry and always have canning jars on hand, the cost of these will be the sets of Christmas lids as seen in the picture. Last year we made flavored Sunday sauces such as raspberry chocolate made with liquor.
• Rather than scrapbooking, I have been writing one page memories of things that happened in the past in my life and the kids’ lives, and then including a picture. Most of these are lighthearted, and I can make two for each child and one for my in-laws (we spent most of our lives an ocean a part and saw them only on holidays)
• A recipe book for my college aged son including all the family recipes he loves from both sides of the family (obviously, we like to cook and eat in this family)
• Hot pads, candle mats and coasters to match the décor of the recipient
By the same token, there will be some homemade gifts of which we will be the happy recipients:

• My sister the gardener will probably give me a baby orchid or two
• My brother gives my son a couple cds every Christmas, downloaded for free from various phantom sites on the web that we could never find, often of blues/rock music classes recorded live.
• My brother in law can use a hammer and a nail a bit, and I happen to know that he is making my son a hanging case for his late father's flag
I share the list above simply to show that not only can homemade gifts be frugal, they can also be unique and appreciated. Like any other gift, a homemade gift is most appreciated when it is a need, want, or a luxury that the recipient could not normally get. Your skills, and your family’s wants, may be different. Are you a good photographer? Take a really good family portrait or a set of candid shots for mom and dad. Can you knit or crochet? Surely you have family members who would appreciate hats, scarves or baby items. Do you like to write? Write a poem, a family history, a book for a grandchild using family names. Computer skills, cooking skills, so many can be used to create a homemade gift that would be appreciated.

I encourage you to take the challenge, use some of that creativity, and vow to make at least one “homemade” gift this year!


  1. Not all but some of my gifts will be homemade. I even have a party comeing up where I have to bring a white elephant gift. I have one but I am thinking of making the bag to put it in and maybe adding something else homemade in the mix.

  2. You are fortunate that your family/friends appreciate homemade gifts. Sorry to say, the people we give gifts generally don't ...

  3. I think its an introductory process, DW. In the beginning I wuld make something,and then give a gift with (ie a ten dollar gift card) and slowly peopleaccepted it and I got feedback. Admittedly, handmade gifts are appreciated more by some family members than others.

  4. Our family has an approach that seems to work. The kids get store bought gifts while adults exchange homemade presents. Since we older folks really don't "need" anything, homemade stuff is appreciated and enjoyed.

  5. All great ideas. Your recipe for barbecue sauce---yummy!
    My sister in law used to give every new bride to our family the family recipes. I know that is one thing each of us have kept and cherished- used way more often than the "formal china"

  6. I loved all these great ideas. I am going to share them on a post I wrote with suggestions for gifts for senior citizens.

    Be well and Merry Christmas!



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