According to The New York Times, craft stores had higher sales this year because people were trying to save money by making homemade gifts. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons:
1. You and your glue gun cannot beat out East Asia on price.
2. Crafting is a lot like auditioning for American Idol or wearing a thong to the beach - one of those things that many try but few can pull off with dignity. Unless you graduated from art school or are part of that .2% of the human population with real talent, your craft will be ugly. Trust me on this. It will also tend to be of a useless nature.
3. Ugly crafts are only appreciated when given by children. (Valerie, if you ever happen to read this - You know that seashell topiary I gave you? Get rid of it. I don't know what I was thinking.)
If you really want something cheap and sustainable, give a pre-owned gift. My mother is the queen of second-hand gifts, which is why there's an Ann Taylor cashmere sweater hanging in my closet, my friends receive vintage jewelry, and my baby cousins get new-to-them toys and books every week. Nobody sniffs at the lavender Goodwill tag she sometimes forgets to peel off the bottom. The gifts are higher quality than we cheap people would normally buy and often one of a kind. If we don't like them, we give them to somebody else.
The creativity comes in sifting out the right item for the right person, which means digging through a lot of junk, a craft of its own. If you're new to this, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Never pass up a free or extremely cheap basket. Baskets are great for corraling a bunch of small interesting things that aren't enough for a gift on their own. Don't buy a new basket. America is filled with baskets.
- Never pass up a decent picture frame. Rip out the ugly picture that's in it and order a flattering print of your friend, her kids, her dog, house or whatever. If you must glue something to it, make it easy to pick off.
- Save shower gift sets. They make great regifted gifts for the purpose of regifting. Nobody actually uses a shower set. They put it in a drawer for when they need a gift.
- It must be clean and undamaged. Bonus points if it still has the tags. Double bonus points if the tag says Bloomingdales.