Painted rocks, homemade cards with handwritten messages and breakfast in bed. When we were kids, those were the sort of homemade do-it-yourself (DIY) gifts we could afford. Ideas that were easy on the budget but wrapped up in lots of love.

As the holiday season hits full swing, it’s easy to get caught up in the shopping and spending of it all. If you’re parents, it’s hard not to be pulled into the childish search of what’s hot right now in the world of toys.

But have you ever had someone do something a little different? Some lovely, unique unexpected twist on the traditional gift-giving that it hit you right in the heart?

Kyndra Holley at Hungry Foodie asks people to consider a Buy Nothing or a DIY Christmas - definitely diverging from the traditional options.

“Homemade gifts are an excellent way to show someone near and dear that you love them,” she says. “I love the chilly winter days with the fireplace roaring, Christmas decorations as far as the eye can see, a tree in the corner of the room that has years’ worth of memories hanging from it, delicious bountiful meals and quality time with family.”

But Holley draws the line at exchanging gifts.

“I know, I know... you are going to say, ‘What about the children?’ I say, teach them early about the importance of family togetherness (and) the spirit of giving back. For the last two years we got each of our kids four gifts — something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. For everyone else, we do a mixture of (creative alternatives to buying gifts,) or simply do not exchange gifts. Instead, we exchange hugs, stories, memories (and) meals together.”

The thing about creative homemade gifts, even when you might consider them imperfect, is that they often pull at the heartstrings.

There are lots of alternatives to the typical shopping spree and pursuit of something for everyone that takes over this time of year. Instead of adding debt to your credit cards, score points with your friends and loved ones by presenting them with something slightly different.

Top Homemade, DIY, Unique and Creative Gift Ideas

  1. Donate - Find something your friend or loved one is passionate about and donate in their name. It could be a gift to a local animal shelter, a children’s hospital foundation or a group that supports people with cancer and the search for improved treatments.
  2. Give them something to remember - Cash is nice. But it’s worth the price to purchase something a bit more meaningful. Tickets to the movies, a spa day or dinner at their favorite restaurant beats a Visa gift card any day.
  3. Tap into your skills - What can you do? Go with what you know. If you can knit, consider making a cap or a scarf. If you can cook, make something you know they’ll enjoy. If you want to get creative, buy a candle or bath-bomb making kit and gift away your creations.
  4. Gifts of service - Offer to help someone with something on their to-do list. Or if they’re parents, babysit so they can get out for a bit. The gift of your time can rarely go wrong. If it’s a neighbour, offer to shovel their walk for the month of January. If it’s your spouse, promise to run them a bath (bubbles and candles etc.) every Friday.
  5. Recipe exchange - Rather than exchanging gifts, you can host a potluck and ask everyone to bring their best dish along with the recipe. This way people can sample it and recreate it later at home.
  6. Used (or, as some might say, repurposed) books - There’s nothing like getting a book that comes with approval from someone you know and trust. Host a book exchange or simply wrap up one of your favorites along with a note about why you love it.
  7. Baking - Home-made cookies or baking? Sure, we can buy them at the store but taking the time to sweeten the gift-giving by baking something sweet is pretty much a slam-dunk crowd pleaser. And anything homemade, delivered in lieu of something purchased has ‘love you’ written all over it.