We talk a lot here about the value of handmade and heartfelt gifts, but the truth is, not all homemade gifts are made equal.
What makes a handmade gift special is not just the fact that it was created instead of bought. The gift has to be something that the recipient values.
If she doesn’t like to decorate with crafts, if she doesn’t wear wool scarves, or if candy wrecks his diet and perfumed soap makes him itchy, then a homemade version is not any better than store-bought.
The most effective gifts tune into the recipient’s wants — not the giver’s. And homemade gifts are perfect for the person who has everything he needs, because almost everyone wants more attention, more good food, or more time to do what they love.
Last Christmas I was completely overwhelmed with work that I didn’t have time to compile some of my traditional handmade gifts (like the year-end photo book that requires culling thousands of photos).
So I took a shortcut. I gave “month club” gifts which spread my time over the year, instead of cramming all the effort into the holiday crunch. Here are my ideas, and one more at the end that you might want to forward to your sweetie.
Homemade Cookie of the Month Club
Last Christmas I gave my dad a Cookie of the Month Club. He loves fresh cookies so much that, even though he doesn’t cook, he will actually get out the flour and oats and raisins and make batches for himself.
So in his box under the tree was a tin of our favorite toffee cookies and a promise that my kids and I would make a different kind for him every month. I knew this gift would mean much more than any gourmet cookies I could put on auto-pilot. Homemade cookies just taste better, and I’m sure one of the reasons why is that they are baked with love, not money.
Kids’ Art of the Month Club
For my mom, I chose an Art of the Month club where I promised to send her samples of her grandkids’ art and schoolwork every month. The package under the tree included a picture frame that could be opened and closed like a cabinet to change the art inside.
Of course sending schoolwork to my parents is something I should have been doing anyway, as I told Meagan Francis in our podcast chat on The Kitchen Hour about simplifying the holidays. But I know myself by now, and unfortunately I am not great about keeping in touch this way. So the structure of the month-club gift also helped me be more of the daughter I wanted to be.
Hand-Delivered Wine of the Month Club
When I was looking around for a wine-of-the-month club last year for my husband, I was shocked to see how expensive they were. Since most of the cost seemed to be in the shipping, why pay for delivery, I thought, when I could simply pick up a bottle at the liquor store? To make the bottle more special, I promised to serve it with a candlelit dinner for two while the kids watched a movie.
These gifts, born from a lack of time at the holidays, actually became some of the most meaningful gifts I have given.
Whenever my dad called to thank me for the cookies, I could feel his happiness even through the answering machine. My mom looked forward to seeing report cards, preschool crafts, and self-portraits. And even though I confess that I fell behind on my wine-of-the-month job, the few dinners alone that my husband and I enjoyed were probably the best quality time we had all year.
Tips for Doing Month Club Gifts Well
The hardest part about homemade monthly gifts is following through. If I were to do this type of gift again, I would help myself be successful by planning ahead, setting a schedule, and batching tasks in January. For example:
- Be realistic about what you promise. If your two-year-old can’t sit through a movie (like mine), and your older kids can’t be counted on to babysit, then instead of a dinner maybe choose a late-night romantic movie with popcorn and hot chocolate.
- If your gift involves sending packages, gather boxes and envelopes for every month ahead of time — stamped, addressed, and even dated — and set a fixed day to go to the post office.
- If you plan on going somewhere or doing something, get out the calendar in January and pencil in a date every month.
Just as with most tasks, following a schedule and doing as much as possible ahead of time helps ensure we get it done.
More Ideas for Monthly Gifts — Including One for Mom
There are so many possibilities with month-club gifts and variations on the theme. My friends in New York got the three of us subscriptions to a local theater for my birthday. Even though we lived in the same city, life would get busy, and we would look forward to the night of “our play” and our time together.
While experiential gifts aren’t always inexpensive, they take the focus off of Stuff and onto relationships. For a child I could see giving a standing Sunday date of one-on-one time, a trip to the rock climbing gym, or monthly free event together. (Here’s how to make a coupon favor book to give to the kids.)
As a mom who can’t think of what she wants (and would never dare ask for this), what about a “day off”? This free gift made The Happiest Mom’s list of 20 Holiday Gifts for Moms:
A Day Off. No kids. No responsibilities. For many moms, it just seems like a pipe dream; but it’s a gift anyone, with any budget, can give. Schedule a day that you’ll take the kids off her hands, and shoo her out the door to the movies, antique store or even just to browse shelves at the library. No dishes, no laundry, no diapers? Heaven.
Amazing how some of the most precious gifts can cost nothing at all.