‘Tis the season for giving others gifts. Could be cash. Could be a bottle of bubbly or a box of chocolates. Maye you’ve gone more traditional, wrapped up a bestseller and topped it off with a big bow. Whether it’s for an office party, a Secret Santa, Christmas, Hannukah, a birthday, Winter Solstice, or just as a nice gesture, you are likely giving at least one gift this winter. Most people assume that a gift has to be purchased from a store or sent from Amazon. We have come up with some unconventional gift ideas that will knock your recipient’s socks off!
You know you can bake Christmas cookies for your friends and family. Maybe you’ve done it before. But something holds you back – you want to give them a gift that lasts. Instead of giving your family members a treat they scarf down in a single evening, try giving them presents that they can choose when to enjoy. Canning is a fairly simple process for preserving almost any kind of food. All you need is a jar, an acid, salt, and heat. The acid can be lemon juice, citric acid, vinegar, etc. This is to help preserve the food. Depending on what you are canning, such as tomatoes, the vegetable’s own acidity should help as well.
Pickling, while not terribly festive in this time of candies and cakes, can make a delicious gift. Using the high acidity of vinegar or similar, the pickler preserves the pickled food in a pickle jar. Pickles range from classics, like beets and eggs, to the unusual, like pigs feet and asparagus, to the intriguing, like fish and kimchi. Preserves are the sweeter (but equally long-lasting) alternative to pickling. In this instance, sugar is added instead of acid, but it is the two reacting together in the fruit that alters the food’s texture and ensures preservation. For all canning, pickling, or preserving recipes, spices are encouraged to give these usually plain dishes a little kick when you crack them open between now and next winter.
“Oh, I’m just not very crafty,” your friend says while purchasing an expensive purse for a gift. They could sew one themselves instead, save money, and have the pride of creating something special for a loved one. The real issue isn’t skill, it is patience. If you have a little extra time on nights or weekends, say while watching your favorite show, you can get some knitting or sewing in. Have some spare cloth? You can sew together otherwise disparate pieces to make an eclectic handbag or some funky place mats. If clothes and linens aren’t your thing, you can try basket weaving to create a mail or picnic basket. Or turn that half-finished quilt into a tapestry! You don’t have to be artistic to make crafts. It helps, but there is nothing wrong with sticking to the instructions and making something warm and functional.
You might remember this from your childhood: personal coupons as gifts. Maybe you don’t have any money of your own to buy a great gift, so you get out the crayons and construction paper, and make some coupons for “1 FREE HUG” or “Good for 1 Picnic.” These may seem silly and low effort, but they also imply a commitment to honor the offer and spend some time with the recipient.
Even better, if you have a special skill you can create coupons that are valuable enough to auction off for charity: 2 FREE Manicures, or 1 Complimentary Historical Tour of the City. With the Coupon gift idea, you can play to your strengths and create something truly unique. There are websites that can help you design them as well, so that not only are they quite personal, they will look like professionally crafted vouchers. Everyone will wonder what this fancy invitation is that your friend, coworker, or family member has received.
The holidays are a batty time to make reservations. With the recent release of the latest Star Wars film, many moviegoers were skeptical about getting in to see it opening weekend. For a season that forces us out of the cold and into our homes, December is an awfully busy month. That’s why tickets tend to come out of left field and make a great gift.
It can be tricky to plan an outing without outing your secret gift idea. So, contact the box office and ask about anytime tickets. For certain events or venues, anytime tickets are not available, but for larger events or standing room, anytime tickets are a given. They don’t have to be a musical or a movie, too. Anytime tickets to visit the zoo or the local arboretum or conservatory are often less expensive this time of year, even though these places tend to feature special winter events to draw a crowd. Plus, tickets are a gift that you know someone will use, unlike a new kitchen utensil or shoe shining kit, which they may already have fifty of.
If you find yourself once again wishing that you had created something artistic or useful this year for your coworkers or loved ones, don’t lament in vain! Start with this question: Do I already have the necessary skill? If yes, make a list of all the items you need to complete this process. Do you need wood to build someone a chair? Maybe clay and paints to make a sculpture. Gather the supplies early. After writing out the necessary components, determine what the steps are and how long they take. Then select when each step must be completed by. Designate a few days a month or one day a week to work on each step. And leave a few months open before the holiday or birthday in question – plenty of time for polishing, fixing unexpected mistakes, or buying a new chair instead if you completely botch the execution.
Say you want to make something but lack the skill. “I’d love to create some jewelry for my daughter, but I don’t know anything about metalworking,” you say. Local libraries are an excellent hub for classes and seminars, where you can get in touch with an instructor and gain introductory knowledge. For many hobbies and crafts, online courses and YouTube videos are an appropriate substitute for in-person training. Still, even if you are just getting started, it is important to lay out a plan for creation of your gift (or “final project”). Talk to your instructor about it. Let them know that you have a goal, and they can put you on a realistic track to achieving that goal and completing your gift (or gifts) in time.
Why Gift Differently?
“I don’t have time to do something unusual. I’ll just shop online,” you say. And there is nothing wrong with that. Everyone has moments where they just don’t have the time or the schedule to gift outside the box. But, like creating a piece of art for someone, you can always start now and work on it throughout the year. Patience and planning are key to giving unorthodox presents. Even if you don’t have a free moment in December, you will have plenty between now and this time next year.
Not only are unique gifts a way of making a friend or coworker feel appreciated, they impress others. People will remember the lady who gave tickets instead of fruitcake for Christmas, or the boss who handed out homemade ornaments instead of iTunes gift cards. They are a memorable personal touch. That’s not just good gift giving, that’s good business.