Planning is Key. No matter which projects you choose, planning is critical. Once you’ve decided on your projects, you’ll need to allow time to acquire the needed materials and to finish the project. Always allow yourself longer than you think it will take- there are few things worse than showing up with a half-finished present, no present at all, or worse, needing to break the bank by rushing to the store at the last minute to purchase a store-bought gift that wasn’t included in your budget.
Choosing the Right Gift
As the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts. A good gift is not about how much it costs! A good gift shows that you cared enough to take the time to consider what the recipient would like and that you’ve also paid enough attention to who they are over time to know them well. It should communicate a positive message to the recipient and leave them with the feeling that they are loved and accepted for who they are or who they aspire to become. Your first consideration should be your budget, so decide how much you can afford or are willing to spend to help narrow down your gift-giving choices.
Now it’s time to do some brainstorming! Make a list to help you keep your thoughts straight. Don’t worry if some of your items seem a little silly- write down whatever comes to mind. You can edit and refine your list later.
Write down what you love best about this person and what they are most proud of about themselves. This will give you an idea for gifts that will reflect their core personality and the relationship you have with them. Next, make a list of the things that round that person out- the accessories to their core personality, if you will. They could include:
- Style: do they lean more towards the practical and functional or are they the more free-wheeling and frivolous type? In their spare time, do they prefer calm, sedentary activities or are they more active and adventurous?
- Circumstances & Life Stages: we all experience positive and negative circumstances at different times in our lives. Examples would include a new move, a new baby, an aging home in need of repair, stressful events, a heavy workload that leaves no personal time, constricted budgets due to education costs or job loss. What is their stage of life- baby, child, teen, young adult, adult, empty-nester, the aged?
- Restrictions: does the recipient have restrictions due to allergies, illness, religion (examples include pork or alcohol products), or ethics (examples included vegetarian/veganism, fair-trade, organically grown, locally sourced)?
Now that you’ve narrowed down their core personality and the accessories to their personality, it’s time to choose a project.
Deciding on a Project
There are many sources on the Internet including Pinterest, Etsy, and Google. If you’re light on DIY experience, consider capitalizing off of skills you already know.
Can you cook? An assortment of home-baked goods, some ready-to-eat and some securely wrapped for longer-term storage in the freezer, is always a nice gift. The ready-to-eat baked goods give the recipient the opportunity to sample, share, and enjoy when the gift is given and the securely wrapped items allow them the flexibility to put the baked goods up until after the food glut of the holidays is over. Try to include baked goods that don’t include sugar or other sweeteners to avoid the “dessert overload” that many of us experience during the holidays.
The following recipes provide a nice combination of sweet and savory and have the added advantage of being budget-friendly. They all also freeze and travel well.
Or, try making this delicious Rum Cake
- 1 package (18 ½ oz.) yellow cake mix (with or w/out pudding already in the mix)
- 1 package (3 ¾ oz) vanilla instant pudding
- 4 large eggs
- ½ C cold water
- ½ C dark rum (80 proof)
- ½ C vegetable oil
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10” Bundt pan. Mix cake ingredients until smooth. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour. Cool pan for 25 minutes. Invert onto serving plate. Prick top. Spoon and brush rum glaze evenly over cake, allowing the cake to absorb the glaze. *optional: when cake is cooled, drizzle with Chocolate Topping and sprinkle with nuts.
Rum Glaze Recipe:
- ¼ lb (1 stick) butter
- ¼ C water
- 1 C granulated sugar
- ½ C dark rum
- Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in rum
- Chocolate Glaze Topping
- 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, 1 t. butter
- Melt chocolate and butter over very low heat in a heavy saucepan until smooth
Another option is to combine just one of these recipes with and some homemade coffee creamer or syrup found here.
Are you just beginning to get into fiber arts? One of the easiest beginner projects is counted cross-stitch. Cross-stitch starts with a simple X shaped stitch that is embroidered with floss onto an even weave fabric. The patterns are easy to follow and there are kits available that include all the materials you’ll need.
Do you have a nature lover on your list? DIY garden art is a great choice and can be made with repurposed items. This homemade bird feeder and Suet Cage Nester were made with materials that cost less than $20.
DIY Bird Feeder
- a bowl with a fitted lid (this feeder was made with a vintage face powder bowl with matching lid found at a local thrift store) or two matching bowls/saucers/plates
- a bud vase (this was made with a vintage Anchor Hocking crystal-cut, clear glass bud vase found at a local thrift store)
- a short length of chain with a small “S” hook, an eye bolt, and epoxy (they can be found at a hardware store).
- hand drill or drill press with a diamond bit.
To make the Suet Cage Nester, simply buy the suet cage design of your choice and fill with natural fibers. Suet cages can be found at most hardware and feed stores and fiber can be a combination of any kind of wool or hair (even dog hair works!).
Are you rich in skills, but low on cash? Give the “Homesteader Gift Card”! For as little as the cost of a greeting card, you can offer your time, skill, and experience to lighten someone else’s load. Do you have friends and family with young children? Offer to babysit and give the gift of a night out to the over-worked parents. Do you have a niece or nephew that inherited your love of the outdoors, but has parents that think roughing it is a hotel without room service? Take your young relative fishing, exploring, bug catching- whatever suits their fancy. If you have a mechanic’s skills, offer to repair that starving student’s vehicle. Do you have a friend or family member who cares for an elderly parent? Offer to keep their elderly parent company so they can get a much-needed respite.
We all have one…or several. The one who refuses to eat the eggs from your hens because they didn’t come from a store, the one who won’t wear handmade clothing because they don’t have a designer label attached, the one who turns their nose up at your beautifully canned jams, the one that, no matter how good the quality of your materials, no matter how skillful your craftsmanship, no matter what, THAT relative who will judge you and feel your gift less worthy simply because it wasn’t store-bought.
THAT relative may be the most difficult for the DIY homesteader and/or those on a tight budget. Planning your gift for them could also take the longest amount of time, so get cracking on it NOW.
This, my friends, is where sales come in. Take those same delicious homemade foods, mad skills, or free time and start exchanging them for cold hard cash. In order to sell successfully, you’ll need to determine the dollar value of whatever it is you have to offer. The next step is, of course, finding someone willing to give you cash for whatever you’re offering.
Before offering food products for sale, check with your local Environmental Health department to see what your local laws are concerning the sale of food. It can vary from no restrictions, relatively light restrictions requiring that you follow local cottage food law guidelines, to no sales of homemade products at all.
Do you have handmade wares? Find local shops willing to carry your items or flea markets where you can sell direct to consumers. Explore online options like Etsy, eBay, and local Facebook exchange groups.
Do you have time to offer? Websites like www.care.com are an excellent place to find customers seeking everything from pet sitting to housekeeping to child care. Can you offer skilled labor? Advertise those mad skills on Craig’s list!
Another option is to design a gift that falls somewhere between DIY and store-bought. An excellent example of this is creating custom gift baskets and hampers. These gifts appeal to everyone, including THAT relative.
Once you’ve done the brainstorming as outlined above, give careful consideration to what kind of gift basket contents would appeal to the recipient. Examples include:
Bubble Bath Basket for the perpetually over-worked and stressed-out
- A straw basket
- A combination of handmade soaps
- High-quality store-bought washcloth
- Plastic wine glass/beer mug (for safety!)
- A bottle of their favorite wine or a six-pack of their favorite beer
The Budding DIY’er
- A small sewing basket with a variety of basic sewing tools and supplies
- A five-gallon bucket filled with small tools and the materials needed to get them started on their first project and a Homesteaders Gift Card offering your time to teach them how to do it
- A pre-seasoned cast iron skillet, the ingredients needed to cook something in it, and homemade hot pads
Regardless of which route you take to complete your holiday gift-giving, always keep in mind the message your gift sends. Keep it positive, keep it loving, and keep focused on the recipient. A good gift is geared towards the person you’re giving it to, but the best gifts are the ones you make because they include a little bit of yourself and most importantly, the relationship the two of you share. After all, isn’t sharing love the best part of the holidays?