We’ve all done it. Your best friend’s birthday is today and you completely forgot. Your anniversary is today and you haven’t done anything. You forgot to buy a Christmas present for Aunt Imogene and she’s at the door. You don’t have time to pick out a fabulous present, so what can you do, besides the obvious email gift certificate?
Unfortunately, there’s probably no way to disguise the fact that you forgot, or at least didn’t have a lot of time. It’s an unfortunate fact that, in our consumer oriented culture, a homemade gift is code for, “I screwed up. Don’t hate me.” Either that or it’s code for, “I’m broke or cheap. At least I tried.” It’s terrible that we think this way but, be honest, you probably think like that, too.
Most people who remember occasions buy commercially available presents. Those who forget make stuff up. But this isn’t a sin and, in fact, you can give some pretty cool stuff if you just think about the gift’s suitability for the recipient. If you live by the adage that, “It’s the thought that counts,” you can salvage a forgotten occasion with grace, tact, and a really cool gift. Here are some ideas:
Give coupons: This is an old idea, but now with basic word processing software and a color printer, you can make coupons that are also works of art. Give free nights of babysitting, massages (great for anniversaries), chores, or anything else that you know the recipient wants to do or doesn’t have time to do.
Charitable contributions: Give to a charity that you know means a lot to your gift recipient. Most places now let you donate online and print out a gift card or certificate to mark your gift.
Your best recipes: If you have a stash of family favorites that people rave about, type them up neatly and print them on decorative cards or paper, slip into a small binder, and give them away.
A framed picture: For the cost of a pretty frame, you can make someone’s day. Maybe you have a picture of you and your best friend on a great vacation, or a family photo that no one knows you have. Print it and frame it.
Treat pack: Gather single serve packs of some of your friend’s favorite candies into a decorative jar or bowl.
Your own produce: If you have a prolific garden, give away some of your produce in decorative jars or containers. If it’s past summer and you canned some of your haul, give some away.
Music CD’s: You probably have a good idea of your recipient’s musical taste. There are plenty of free, legal songs available for download that you can burn to a CD and maybe introduce your friends to new artists.
Podcasts and audiobooks: I’m sure you know what your friends are interested in. There are free and legal podcasts and audiobooks for almost every interest, from sports to travel to cooking to auto repair. Download a few and put them on CD so your friends can pass some wait time with some interesting material.
Give them a night out – at your house: Invite your friend and a guest to your house for a night out. Cook them a meal, pair it with wine, and serve it like a professional waiter. Then leave them alone to eat and talk. When dinner’s over, let them choose a movie from your collection, fix them some popcorn, and leave them to canoodle on your couch. It’s cheaper for you than giving them a “true” night out and they still get to get out. It may even be better for them since there are no annoying people on cell phones to ruin the movie or dinner conversation.
Handmade cards: If you don’t want to give a present, a handmade card is unique and appreciated. Use personal photos or fun clip art to design the card and put your own thoughts inside, or a piece of favorite poetry.
Offer to teach something: You probably have skills that your friends want to learn. Give them the gift of your knowledge. Teach them computers or cooking. Teach them how to use coupons or search for online bargains. Teach them the basics of an instrument or a few words in a foreign language.
A video: You probably have some pictures or video of times together or fun things you’ve done. Create a video and burn it to DVD. Even a collection of still pictures synched to music makes a memorable gift.
Cook a meal: Offer to make a meal with all the trimmings and deliver it to the person’s house. You’re just like the pizza delivery guy, only free.
You don’t have to run out and buy something when you realize you’ve forgotten an occasion. There are plenty of creative gifts to be made from things you likely already have on hand or can at least get quickly. Gift cards are great, but impersonal. Add your personal touch to these ideas and they’ll be appreciated and well received.