Extraordinary Gift Giving

It’s not Wednesday, I know, and I’m sorry; life got in the way this week and I wanted to give you a good post rather than a rushed one. So anyway, here we go.

Finding just the right gift for someone can be quite a challenge, especially if you’ve been exchanging gifts for years and have run out of ideas. I am someone who loves giving gifts. In fact, I love giving gifts so much that it’s kind of become a competition I have with myself to come up with the best possible gift and to top the gifts I’ve given before.

As you can imagine, this gets harder and harder every year.

Matt and I’s first anniversary was marked by a Survival Kit to survive another year with your girlfriend; inside were three bottles of beer, comic books, candy, and a pair of tickets to his first ever concert. It was pretty great at the time but I consider if fairly basic compared to the Harry Potter extravaganza I set up this past year to mark five years together. I made ‘books’ out of granola bar boxes and filled them with goodies and travel supplies, I filled a cauldron and scattered Hogwarts letters on the bed with some Hufflepuff merchandise I had picked up in Orlando. All of this was to get ready for our big trip in October, Matt’s first trip to Hogwarts. His Hogwarts supply list included a few items I would buy him on the trip which included his very own wand. I’m pretty proud of that one, and of course that leaves me wondering how I’m going to top it this year.

Over the years surprised gift receivers have asked me time and time again how I come up with all of this stuff. Creative gift giving is something I pride myself in but it’s also something I think everyone could do if they set their mind to it. Giving (and receiving) gift cards is perfectly fine but sometimes it’s nice to make things a little more personal. Still, I acknowledge that it can be hard to know where to start, and that’s why I wanted to share a few pointers with you.

So here we are, my tips on putting together an extraordinary and memorable gift:

See if you can find a theme

What has made most of my gifts successful has been the fact that I had a theme to work around. I find themes actually make the gift a little less work because you give yourself a parameter to work within. You don’t have to pick anything elaborate if you don’t want to; for one of my gifts the theme was just a yellow colour scheme. I even know someone whose kid asked for “yellow” for Christmas so they worked all the gifts around that colour.

Themes can get more specific of course; I’ve done Harry Potter, travelling, Beauty and the Beast (which I posted about some time ago), and the ever overdone theme of Star Wars (thank you Disney for releasing the films around Christmas). Having a theme can give you some searching options for finding ideas online. In looking up Star Wars online I came up with the idea of ‘making’ our own lightsabers; with some markers and leftover gift wrap tubes we got to design lightsabers while watching Star Wars and eating dinner. Yep, it was a really wild Friday night for two twenty somethings.

Themes help you focus the gift and can help narrow down ideas, they also make the gift more unique and kind of exciting. It also makes it personal of course because you can tailor your theme to the person you’re giving the gift to.

Don’t let Pinterest get you down:

Scrolling through seemingly endless feeds of gift ideas and pictures of things other people have made can be quite intimidating, especially when you’re worried about your project becoming a Pinterest fail. But Pinterest can be a great tool for getting ideas for whatever gift you want to make. It’s how I got the idea for my Open When letter box for my mom (which was featured in this post) and the idea for the fishing lure key chain that I made for my grandfather. Both gifts turned out great, even if my grandfather seemed more interested in taking apart the keychain so he could actually use the lures.

Use Pinterest as a research tool but don’t expect yourself to perfectly replicate anything on there. Make the gift how you want to make it and in a way that suits your budget and your desires for the outcome. Your gift doesn’t have to look the same as something someone else posted; in fact I think it’s nicer if it doesn’t. Your gift should have your own personal touch to it, even if the idea came from someone else.

The Dollarstore is your friend:

Themed gifts can get really expensive if you’re not careful. Brainstorming ideas can often lead to a list of items that really start to add up. I’ve had gift ideas where I’ve bought the first few major things and realized I had more or less killed my budget on one or two items which really kills the idea of making a basket or a themed gift. My solution to this problem has become the Dollarstore. People are sometimes surprised when I explain that that’s where a lot of pieces of their gift came from, mainly because there is this misconception that just because something is low in price it has to be ‘cheap’ and therefore undesirable. But more often than not I use the Dollarstore to find some filler items and the actual packaging of my first.

For my dad’s 50th birthday I did a box celebrating every decade he had been alive during. While bigger items like Gordie Howe’s book and an under armour Muhammed Ali shirt put me back a bit, many more of the items only cost a buck or two and they still brought the whole gift together. Skittles, KitKat bars, cotton swabs, a fan, sparklers, pens, etc. Simple things that made the gift a bit bigger and really flushed out my scene.

Tip: Check out different Dollarstores in your area if there is more than one, some might have items that the others don’t.

The imperfections make it perfect:

I try not to put too much pressure on myself when I’m making these gifts, even if I would like everything to look smooth and clean cut just like the Pinterest images I’m inspired by. But the fact is: no one has ever complained to me about a typo or a poorly glued edge, my grandfather wasn’t worried about the slight ink smudge on his fishing key chain, and my dad didn’t mind that some of the ribbons  on his box weren’t expertly curled. When you make gifts all the hard work and heart you put into it shows through and no one cares if every last thing is perfect. Just do the best you can do.

Don’t sweat the small stuff; if you make a mistake see if you can fix it without scrapping the whole project but if you can’t it’s often better to move on.

So whether you’re getting ready for a big birthday like I am (my grandfather’s 70th), or you”re brainstorming for another occasion, it’s always nice to consider a personal touch to your gifts. It really makes things go the extra mile, and you might even have a bit of fun putting the gift together. I know some of you might instantly react and say oh I’m not creative enough but I promise you you are. You might just need some inspiration from others and then you can run with it. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Matt:

Matt went from giving regular insert piece of jewelry here gifts to eventually realizing that I could only wear so many necklaces and that I preferred experiences over gifts anyhow. It took a few tips from me and a bit of help from my mom but eventually he put together his own themed gift box. The gift included a night at a hotel in the city (before we were living here), snacks and comfy clothes for the stay, and tickets to see Kinky Boots which were effectively marked by the DIY Kinky Boot he had made with items from the Dollarstore (See? So useful!).

It’s probably one of my favourite gifts I’ve ever received from him; it even tops the Tiffany’s bracelet he bought me, just because so much thought and effort went into it. If he can figure it out, I promise you, so can you.

If you have any questions about any of the gifts seen here or any of the many others I’ve gifted in the past please don’t hesitate to comment below. I’m happy to help with any ideas or even execution of gifts if you have an idea of what you’d like to do. I live for this stuff so even if you just want to show off a gift you’ve made please go ahead and drop me a link! I can’t wait to see what ya’ll come up with.

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