Guest Author - Elizabeth Stuttard
Students (including online students) are often living on tight budgets making it difficult to fit gifts into those budgets. However, with a little imagination, there are many unique gift ideas that are very low cost and some are even no cost. Many of these ideas are appreciated even more than expensive gifts because they are often more thoughtful for the particular person and because they don't have to sit on a shelf or add clutter to someone's home.
Make a gift.
If you have a hobby or are studying one of the arts, then you have the ability to make a gift that will be appreciated by family and friends. If you need to complete a project for your class, choose something that you can give as a gift when it is completed. I am always disappointed if someone buys me a gift when they do wonderful things with writing, photography, painting, or music. I would much prefer a photo for the wall, an album, a quick sketch, a poem, a story, or a CD of some of their unpublished music. Remember that you don't have to have made it big yet for your art to be appreciated by your friends and family.
Use your talents
Maybe you are not considered to be an artist, but you may have great talent as a carpenter. Then great gifts might be a recipe box, a wooden puzzle for a child, or a picture frame. If you are a good cook, you could consider making a person's favourite cookies, or candy. Loaves, muffins, homemade pickles, relishes, or jams are always appreciated, especially if the recipe is included with them. If you knit or crochet then you know how much people enjoy receiving mitts, hats, scarves, or slippers to keep them warm during the cold months. A leather worker can make billfolds, bags, or bookmarks for gifts. If you sew, then tote bags, tablecloths and serviettes can be quickly made and will be well used by the recipients. Whatever your talents are, make use of them for gift giving ideas.
Give your time to others.
How about breakfast in bed for parents, husbands or wives? How about an evening, a day, or a weekend of babysitting? What about snow shoveling, or raking or cutting grass, or cleaning windows? These gifts are very much appreciated by busy people or people with mobility problems. You can use your creativity to create coupons to give to those you offer your services to.
Use your computer skills
Since online learners know how to use a computer, perhaps you would be interested in using it to assist you in making your gifts. One idea is to gather some information in which you know someone has an interest, and print it out for them as a booklet. Calendars are items that can be made up on the computer and you can personalize them by including family birthdays and special occasions, and by adding family photos. Making a family recipe book for members of your family is made much easier by using the computer but this could be made by hand as well. A great idea if you are very good technically, is to give a coupon, offering to install some free software onto someone's computer, or sometimes for grandparents, to offer to show them how to use a new computer that they have just acquired. Yes, they can probably figure it out themselves over time but it is so much faster to have someone show you at least the basics at the beginning. They would love that type of gift. You might often think that you should help your grandmother or grandfather with the new computer but never find the time to do it. By making it a gift, you will find the time to honor that coupon you gave to her/him.
Thinking about what your gift recipient likes to do and what would be helpful to him/her will help you come up with many gift ideas that are free or inexpensive and yet are often more cherished by the recipient. Your time is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone and allows you to maintain your budget at the same time. Do not think that people just pretend to love these types of gifts. I have heard people say over and over how much they have honestly appreciated them. So put your thinking cap on and decide which would be the perfect idea for each of those people on YOUR list.