Everybody likes and prefers fancy, expensive gifts, but if somebody is really special to you, they’ll still appreciate something shoddy that you made yourself. Even something completely useless like a Popsicle stick Christmas tree that will probably end up in the trash can have meaning if you give it from the heart.

Sure, it’s easy to buy something nice for somebody, but it’s hard to make something by hand. You are giving them the gift of your manual labor. It probably won’t come out right on the first try. In fact, it may not ever come out right however many times you try. Part of the gift is the time and materials that you wasted trying to make the darn thing in the first place. Plus, there’s the appeal of rarity. No store sells Christmas ornaments as crappy as the ones you make yourself. These are one-of-one, limited-edition treasures.

Another endearing aspect of something you made yourself is the intimacy factor. You are willing to admit and share your complete ineptitude with this person — and that’s kind of cute in its own pathetic way, like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

Of course, if you are skilled in the arts of craft, then you can dazzle and wow the recipient with your fine motor skills. But for the rest of us, here are a few ideas that might get you out of a present-purchasing pickle:

Do you hear what I hear?

Instead of a holiday card, an idea that I’ve always liked is giving the gift of music. You can burn a disc of your favorite songs and then decorate the disk. Make sure that you don’t go overboard with things that stick on the surface of the disk, or it will ruin most laptop/car disk drives. In general, I’d stay away from glitter, unless you spray several coats of clear spray paint over it so that it doesn’t come off in the CD player and take away your lucky giftee’s ability to listen to music.


Do you see what I see?

Want to put in minimal effort to show that you really care? How about something with a picture! You can print pictures off your phone for cheap. Or, if you want to get fancy, you can get them printed onto a canvas, mug or T-shirt.

While, technically, this is still buying something, it’s buying something that feels personalized. Of course, if you want to do something that’s genuinely cool, you could go to a spot like Blank Canvas on Bethel Street in Chinatown, where they’ll help you make something that actually looks good.

Do you taste what I taste?

For Christmas cookies, you have a couple of options. You can go for a homemade treat that’s so delicious it gets devoured in one sitting, even though you gave a whole tin’s worth. Or, you can do your friend’s figure a favor and ruin a recipe with a collection of crudely Christmas-shaped, completely unpalatable dough wads that feed bugs in the landfill instead of adding a muffin top to bikini bottoms.

No matter what you choose, you’ll be saying you care with your own creative flair. Just be deliberate about it and give fair warning.