Thoughtful Gifts: to Buy or Make?

I struggle with gift-giving a little. I never quite know what to give people, and after I do, I always worry that they won’t like it. I have a hard time figuring out what I want in the first place, which means I often don’t like surprises. Thanks to many birthdays and Christmases with children now, I’ve figured out a little better how to make everyone happy without spending our life savings. There is more than one way to give thoughtful gifts.

Just Ask

Instead of trying to figure out what people want, I ask them. I used to think it would be better to figure out a surprise on my own, but I caused myself a lot of stress for nothing. For myself, I keep a running list of things I might like for my next birthday or Christmas. Then, when asked, I can give specific answers. If I don’t receive the things on my list, I can still buy them for myself if I still want them after a few months. I buy what my husband and siblings ask for, but not always my kids. Some of their requests are still a little outlandish at this point.

The Gift of Time

For a couple of Christmases when things were tight, I gave my time as a gift. Instead of tangible presents, I spent 1-2 hours with each family member helping them organize or craft. The time we spent together was both fun and productive. It can be difficult to find one-on-one time with so many family members in the first place.

Homemade Gifts

To me, homemade gifts are special. There have been times that I felt guilty in giving something that didn’t cost me any money because I didn’t have any to spare. Then, I realized I was still giving the gift of my time and talents. I might not be the most skilled at crafts, but I love to cook. Some of my favorite homemade gifts to give:

  1. Homemade candy
  2. Baked goods
  3. Quilts (for my kids, since they are from old jeans or t-shirts)
  4. Children’s clothing, especially dresses, skirts, or pajama pants
  5. Doll clothes
  6. Drawstring bags, scripture totes, purses, etc.

I love receiving homemade gifts as well. I have lots of empty Mason jars and home-sewn things to prove it.

chewy chocolate chip cookies

Buying Gifts

I’ve found that with purchasing gifts, it makes sense to buy fewer, more thoughtful things. In the months before birthdays or Christmases, I start jotting down ideas for what I might get the kids and narrow it down to the best ones before I start shopping. Fewer gifts usually means less money spent! Planning ahead also gives me plenty of time to make any homemade gifts I’ve been thinking about.


Whether you choose to buy or make thoughtful gifts, keep the balance between time and money spent. This principle is the essence of frugality. When I have money, but no time, I buy. When I have time and no money, I make. I have never run out of either yet.

For more on birthdays, see here.

4 thoughts on “Thoughtful Gifts: to Buy or Make?”

  1. I love the gift of hours doing an activity! Especially for me, as much as I hate it, I find myself saying not right now I’m cooking, or cleaning or working way to often… I will definitely be incorporating that into my daughters birthday gifts this month. <3

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