Handmade vs Store-Bought Gifts
In most cases, you have an idea which people on your list would appreciate a handmade gift. These people probably already have their basic needs met and would be thrilled that you spent the time and energy to customize a gift for them. They could be from all walks of life and in all situations, but what binds them together is the fact that they don't really need the basics. For example, mosaic coasters would probably be lost on a niece who's a struggling actress in New York City. By all means, if you can afford it, send her money. On the other hand, your father, who's gotten a tie from you every Father's Day, would probably love a gift basket of car wash soap, a sponge, car wax, and buffing rags along with a certificate to spend a day together spiffing up his wheels.
A perfect gift of pampering for a new mother, grandparent, stay-at-home mom, stressed executive, and so on would be a gift certificate for a day at the spa. Spas offer massages that are relaxing and therapeutic along with a myriad of other services. Be sure to check out the references of the spa and masseuse before signing someone up for a session. If you don't have a spa near you, consider a gift certificate for a makeover or a manicure.
In the case of a friend or neighbor with special needs, you might want to explore the possibility of making his or her life easier. For example, if your friend is laid up with a broken leg, you could offer to do some basic house cleaning, run errands, or go to the grocery store for him or her. Or, if your neighbor lost his job, you might want to offer some home-cooked meals or help with the kids until he gets back on his feet. A person who just returned from the hospital following an illness may appreciate a visit from you with a basket of homemade breads and jams and gourmet coffees. You'll find that the gift of your time and energy can make a big difference in a person's life and, in many ways, can enrich your own.
Then again, we all know someone whose basic needs are met but who could use a little pampering. The new mom comes to mind here. I know from experience how the demands of motherhood can change your life situation. At that point in my life, I would have loved an offer of free baby-sitting and a gift certificate to a restaurant for a dinner out. Along this same line, the retired couple next door, whom you can always count on to let your dog out in a pinch, might appreciate a home-cooked gourmet meal for two. Or maybe you know a busy working mom or dad who would appreciate a sampler tray of Christmas cookies over the holidays. All it takes is a little research to find out what you can do that will be most appreciated by your friends and loved ones.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Making Great Gifts © 2001 by Marilee LeBon. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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