In December of 2008, my husband Alex and I were four months into our marriage - we were happy as clams, but poor as dirt. We needed gifts for both sides of our family, friends, co-workers and there was no way we could afford to buy gifts for everyone. In fact, I'm pretty sure the year before was just the same. In 2008, however, we decided to collaborate on a little art project that we could easily reproduce - behold, the Buddha print!
I designed the image (this skinny little simple Buddha is my "original" Buddha - I've drawn and painted him several times since then) and Alex carved the linoleum block and together we printed them, matted them, and framed the couple that would go to our parents. Our friends received prints with a simple black mat that would fit in an 8 x 10 frame. Magnifique!
This year, being poor again as we are, we're working on similar artsy crafty items to give to our family and friends. As much as I enjoyed having money and buying gifts for my loved ones, making something and pouring your time and love into it is so much better for so many reasons.
1. By making your gifts, you can almost completely avoid the insane and unpleasant orgy of commercialism now happening in every mall and store near you. You also aren't forced to hear annoying Christmas/holiday music while doing it.
2. You are contributing to the environment and welfare of the world by not buying some piece of crap that little children made in some foreign country that was then shipped 10,000 miles to get to where you are.
3. Your loved ones will receive something unique and special that was made with your time, care, and effort, and it shows. If they aren't materialistic jerks they will appreciate it.
I could go on, but I will refrain. I know not everyone has the time for such things, but if you start early enough or dedicate a couple solid days in the beginning of December, it can be akin to decorating a tree or baking holiday cookies and provide some festive holiday fun. (I'm sure my parents are probably sick of getting art for their birthdays, Christmas, Mother's and Father's day, but so what? When I become rich and famous they're allowed to sell whatever of it they don't like and hopefully make a fortune.)
We're still working on our designs for prints this year, and I've been researching other simple DIY gifts that will add some variety - I've found a couple really simple looking patterns for things like aprons and change purses. Go here for a Craft Leftovers, a blog with tutorials, patterns and a bunch of great ideas for handmade gifts.
If you knit (I do not - my mother-in-law taught me a few years ago and all I did was one 6 inch square before getting terribly bored) you have plenty of options, and who couldn't use another scarf? (Unless your relatives live in Florida, like mine do.) If you're not crafty or artistic at all, food is always a welcome gift. One year I made baskets with organic pasta and a jar of my homemade marinara sauce for co-workers. Another year we baked bread for friends. If you aren't crafty and can't cook or bake either - well, I hope you have a job and can afford store bought presents, cause I got nothin'.
Your DIY-fever can extend beyond crafty Christmas presents - you should have seen our first Christmas tree. We had no real ornaments, so we ended up decorating our tree with whatever we could find that would hang/sit on pine branches - rubber duckies, mismatched earrings, sunglasses... it was pretty freakishly ...wonderful. :) And I'll definitely never forget it.