It's that time of year again, and you may be racking your brain for gift ideas. You prepare a budget which invariably you underestimate every year. It's the holidays

It's been hard-wired into your brain since the time you were young that it's the season for spending money. However, one Christmas, after spending hours at stores and online, trying to find the right gifts for my friends and family, I realized that the more personal a gift is, the better it is, and there's no simpler way of personalizing a Christmas gift than by making one yourself.

Of course in some ways, it may take up more of your time than the current point-and-click shopping style that has dominated our notions of gift-giving. But the effort put forth in actually creating a gift increases its sentimental value. Here are some successful ideas I've tried over the years that'll save you money while wowing your loved ones:

  1. Personalized recipe booklets
    This is great option for the foodie or culinary enthusiast in your family. I gave this one to my college-aged brother who was just starting to cook on his own. Because I knew all his favorite meals and dishes, I searched for easy recipes online and in magazines, organized and typed them up, then drew out my own cover and had the booklet laminated and bound. Total cost for this gift was maybe $15; and my brother told me a few months later that he's never used a gift as often as he does this one.

  2. Personalized scrap books.
    I made a scrap book one year for my best friend from high school. We went to college together, too, so I had hundreds of pictures and other knick-knacks that I gathered for use in a scrap book, charting our shared history of friendship together. Giving a loved one an instant trip down memory lane is one of the best "gift-that-keeps-giving" ideas I've used to date. For a step-by-step guide on making scrap books, check out Scrapbooks by Design.

  3. "Gift Certificates"
    Gift certificates to various stores or online retailers are very handy and flexible, but they are also perhaps some of the most boring gifts on the planet. So one year, I took the concept of the gift certificate and raised it to a more personal level. Make your own gift certificates that are redeemable for intangible experiences like doing chores, going on dinner date, giving a massage, etc.

  4. Themed gift baskets
    Gift baskets are especially economical and don't take a whole lot of time to put together. These are especially good ideas for friends and relatives outside the immediate family. I make about a dozen of these every year by compiling a list for each recipient of their favorite things, like music, books, movies, candies, etc. Then I put these little knick-knacks in a basket bought at a local crafts store, throw in some decoration, and presto! Instantly personalized gift.

  5. Baked goods kits
    I got this idea from an old family friend, and it's especially well-suited for little girls in the family who love sweets and are interested in baking. Instead of baking cookies or cakes yourself, get all the dry ingredients, layer them in a large glass jar, print the recipe on a note card, and attach it to the jar. Decorate the jar, too. These are always a great hit with my nieces.


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