Homemade and DIY Gift Ideas

Handmade gifts are great—and inexpensive—ways to show people you care. And this holiday season, we have just the ideas you need to let out your inner creativity. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Food Gifts

Nothing says loving like something in the oven, goes the old saying, and we couldn’t agree more. From cookies and cakes, to candy and chocolate, you’re sure to make someone’s holiday bright and tasty with the gift of treats.

Get Crafty

Crafts make for some of the best—and unexpectedly useful—gifts imaginable. Here are some simple, inexpensive ideas for you to choose from.

For the foodie in your life: Take an old wine bottle, paint it with non-toxic paint, fill it with olive oil and, presto, you have a lovely and useful gift. Not much of a painter? Don’t worry. You don’t need to create anything elaborate. A simple flower or nice design is all you need to let someone know you care.

Handy with a needle and thread? Then we’ve got just the idea for you. Get some cloth napkins and add a monogram to each one with cross-stitch, embroidery, needlepoint, or embellish with buttons, appliques, or stencils.

Live wreaths also make great gifts, and are easy to make. All you need is some evergreen boughs, assorted greenery and wire. In just a few hours you’ll have several wreaths.

You could also go with this holiday classic: The gift basket. Just get a nice basket, some ribbon and fill the basket with an assortment of whatever you think the recipient would like. Popular items include bundle handmade soaps and herbal cachets, potpourri, jellies, organic candies and treats.

Buying a gift for someone you know little or nothing about

Sometimes the situation arises in which you’re tasked with getting a gift for someone that you know next to nothing about. Hopefully it’s not your significant other, but it could be a mother- or father-in-law or just a new acquaintance that you’re hoping to woo. Here are some tips to picking out the right gift when you’ve got little idea of what to actually get the recipient.

If you’re looking for the easiest solution, you cannot go wrong with a gift card. Some people think that gift cards are a cop-out. They’re not. Giving a gift card says that you’re thoughtful enough to not make assumptions about what the person may or may not like. The end result is that you’re not sticking the recipient with a gift they don’t want or need. Gift cards are fun to redeem and often times help defray or cover the costs of something the recipient would actually like to have.

Your other option is to do some investigation about the person you’re buying the gift for. Think of yourself as a detective of sorts and your job is to listen for little clues and hints about the person’s personality and what type of things they’re interested in.

Asking around can go a long way. Friends and co-workers know these people the best. Try to find out what their interests are and base your gift selection on that information. You can also observe their environment as well as engage them in conversation. You can glean a lot from casually asking questions without the recipient even knowing you’re sizing them up for a gift.

Social media often is a good source of gift ideas. Check Twitter and Facebook as well as public wish lists on sites such as Amazon.com. Chances are you can find some good gift ideas or gift-giving intelligence there. If worse comes to worse, you can always whip out your wallet and pull out some old-fashioned dollar bills to plunk down. Cash is king after all. And who doesn’t love the gift of money?!

Happy holidays and happy gift hunting!

Top 10 gifts the woman in your life will love

For guys, figuring out what women want is a lifelong process. Trying to decipher what they might want as a holiday gift is harder than trying to decipher an ancient language. Whereas guys want “stuff,” women often are happier with gifts that are event- or experience-based. Here are 10 gift ideas for the woman in your life. And if none of these gift ideas work, don’t blame us!

Adopt a pet (after careful consideration) – If the woman in your life is a pet lover and has been nagging you about adopting a furry friend, why not make this the year you finally give in? Go to a local shelter and save an animal’s life. Having a pet is an enriching experience and frankly doesn’t add that much more responsibility to your life. But do not adopt in haste; only if you’ve previously discussed that a pet is in the cards.

Plane tickets – Ooooh, ooooh. There’s no better gift than plane tickets to an exotic destination. Actually, an ordinary destination will do, but the idea of getting away from it all is really appealing to women and makes a great holiday gift.

Jewels/jewelry – Ah yes, diamonds are a girl’s best friend, aren’t they?! Well, you’ll come out looking like the hero if you get the lady in your life some nice jewelry. A necklace or bracelet would be great. You’ll be getting the bare minimum if you opt for earrings … unless you get really nice earrings.

A huge diamond – Hey big spender. You want to make her month? How about her year? A really ginormous diamond will send the message loud and clear: “I’m willing to spend a LOT of money on you!”

Massage/spa day – Now this is a great gift to get the woman in your life; especially if she loves to be pampered. Plus you’ll be getting her out of your hair for the day, which means you can watch as much UFC and drink as much beer as you like and not have to hear about it.

Weekend getaway – If you want to come off like a knight in shining armor, plan a getaway weekend for you and your woman. Plan on hitting at least one upscale restaurant and lots of shopping. Bring your iPad or iPod to keep yourself amused while she’s off buying stuff.

Wine tour – Reserve a spot for two at a local winery and participate in a wine tasting. Bonus points if you can find a nearby location to have a romantic dinner after the tour.

Bath or Spa Set – Pampering is in! And you’ll be in her good graces if you gift her a basket full of bath and body goods. Handpick them yourself, but make sure you go for some good stuff so she can bathe in luxury!

Merry Maids gift certificate – If you think women really enjoy cleaning, think again. OK, maybe those who are obsessive-compulsive get some satisfaction out of it. But a gift certificate to a maid service? Now you’re talking!

Endless shopping day – Take the woman in your life on a day-long shopping spree including lunch at a half-decent eatery. You may have to reach deep into the wallet on this one, but it makes for a great holiday gift just the same.

How to prepare for a successful Black Friday

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is when people seem to lose all reason and voluntarily get up wickedly early, camp out in front of department stores and wait hours on end for the privilege of hunting for bargains. While it’s true that some great deals can be had, Black Friday does raise the question of whether such feverish consumerism is warranted for such an event. But Black Friday seems like an unstoppable annual event— for the time being anyway. (That said the Internet and Cyber Monday might be altering the Black Friday landscape some.)

Here are some helpful tips to make sure you score nothing but great deals and bargains on Black Friday.

Make sure you bookmark websites that aggregate all Black Friday ads such as Black Friday Ads and Black Friday Info. Visit periodically or just grab the RSS feed from Black Friday websites to stay informed of the latest deals.

Sign up for e-mail or text alerts from your favorite stores/vendors. This way the deals come to you, instead of you going out and trying to track down the deals yourself. Mobile apps also can help you find the deals you want. Black Friday apps such as Black Friday Ads, Black Friday by Fat Wallet and TGI Black Friday can help you connect with the must-have items on your list quickly.

Speaking of lists, make a shopping list and stick with it. It might be tempting to do some impulse shopping while you’re out there on Black Friday. Do not get suckered into going down this road. Have a list of items that you want and maybe list a few alternatives. But do not go off list, otherwise you’re going to end up with a great deal that you didn’t really want or need.

Anticipating deals is definitely one road to take. Retailers are starting to realize that if they offer great deals in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, they can increase their profit margin. And that means you can score the stuff you want at a good sale price. So keep an eye on pre-Black Friday sales and act accordingly.

And with the Internet and Amazon playing a prevalent role in how we shop in these modern times, shopping online and avoiding the madness of Black Friday entirely seems like a wise choice.

More and more retailers are going out of their way to put a lot of the same deals online because they just want to sell, sell, sell. And if you wait for Cyber Monday, you might be able to score the same deals, or even better ones, than what you’d find on Black Friday.

Happy shopping!