Holiday gift exchanges often turn into contests over who can spend the most and do the best job of finding out the purchase price of the item in question. To minimize expenditures, require that everyone in your family or office group handcraft some aspect of each gift. Whether your exchange operates as a Secret Santa or White Elephant event, combine make-it-yourself skills with inexpensive items to create memorable gifts that produce laughter and thanks in equal measure.
Show the person whose name you draw in the annual gag-gift exchange how "bright" you are with a thrift-store lamp but fit it with an energy-efficient LED bulb so it becomes the belle of the lighting ball. Use your desktop or notebook computer at home to make up a tag that looks like the energy-use sticker attached to new home appliances to show their annual energy use. Before you wrap up and bestow your ugly-duckling lamp, verify that its socket and power cord remain in good working order.
Add a home-made twist to the white-elephant present pile with a bracelet that features photos of everyone in your group, family or office. In advance, use your digital camera or smartphone to snap head shots of each of the people who'll be at the party. On your home computer, use your image-editing software to create a one-inch reduced-size version of each of the images. Print them out at home or take them to a quick printer and have the printouts laminated. Cut out the photos and use a sewing needle or hole punch to create a hanging hole at the top of each one. Tie them onto a dollar-store bracelet with thread for a unique charm bracelet that becomes a keepsake.
If your gift exchange starts by drawing names out of a hat, and the name you draw belongs to the chief technology fan among your group, give her a special storage case for the stylus she uses on her smartphone or tablet. Instead of a retail product, make the case yourself or ask a crafty friend who's adept with needle and thread or crochet hook. A magician's staff with a tassel representing the "poof" of a disappearing act, a fabric case complete with snake or worm's head, candy-cane stripes: Use your imagination to dream up the perfect goofy cover-up.
When you become Secret Santa to the proud owner of a new set of kitchen appliances, you've probably heard more than one word of praise for the results that come out of the chef's new range or refrigerator. If there's an induction cooktop on your friend or relative's new range, buy a magnet and dress it up as a cookware tester. This gift blurs the line between silly and practical because induction cooktops only work with ferrous-metal cookware, which sticks to a magnet.
For the gift recipient whose brand-new refrigerator includes through-the-freezer-door ice and water service, turn an empty 2-liter bottle into a receptacle for your recipient's personal brand of "spring" water. Better still, if the refrigerator produces carbonated water through the dispenser, label the bottle as a private brand of bubbly. You can produce the label on your home computer, print it out on transparent label stock and apply it to the bottle.
Photo Credits: Alexa Smahl/Demand Media
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