Thoughtful and inexpensive Christmas presents

papiers cadeaux 13-56-10 2That was taken in 1975. My cousins and I used to love jumping on an improvised mattress made of all the gift wrap and ribbons…

I decided that I wouldn’t spend too much money on Christmas presents this year. Except on my mom and dad who always get the same thing from me every year. He gets a big basket of candy, chocolates, marmalades and patés. She gets a bottle of Chanel :0)

There is an upside (several actually) to giving inexpensive gifts. For one they are usually very thoughtful and make a big impact. They show you really, truly care. OK, a Range Rover or a pony shows you care too, but you get my point. The “downside”, which I personally see as a good thing, is that it requires a bit more forward thinking as well as some time and effort to put together. But we are still about three weeks out, so…

Here is a list of ideas which I hope will inspire you:

  1. A journal kit box with paper, pencils, crayons, glue etc. as well as a list of personal questions to get them started such as: if you were a color, what color would you be and why? What was the best memory of this past year? What are you most thankful for and why? What’s on your bucket list?
  2. A photo collage of all the people they love.
  3. A photo collage retracing their life. Their struggles and successes…
  4. A coupon for a sample of what you do for a living or as a hobby: a photo session, a day of cleaning, the design of their new blog or website, free babysitting, your catering services. Don’t forget that time is often more expensive than money these days…
  5. A family birthday calendar with pictures and maybe even a list of each person’s favorite things and hobbies so they know what gifts they can put together.
  6. A homemade recipe book (which shouldn’t be too hard to put together for most of the people reading this blog. Add pictures and lots of personal notes/tips/comments to each recipe.
  7. A blog book. Even easier. Just print out your favorite posts and you’re done!
  8. Packs of flower or vegetable seeds they can plant each month of the coming year with vintage gardening book found at a yard sale or a used bookstore.
  9. A used book with a personal note explaining why you picked that specific book for that person.
  10. A nice letter describing your relationship with the person and why you feel blessed to have them in your life… also what your hope the future of your relationship will be.
  11. A hand drawn family tree (framed or not). Don’t forget anyone! That would be a recipe for disaster!
  12. A slide show of family photos on a DVD. Same rule applies. Do not forget anyone!!
  13. A printed family photo album (more expensive)
  14. Even better: a photo album in a box. Just print a bunch of small size family photos and put them in a box with a few magnets or some glue so they can make their own collage…
  15. A brownie jar (lots of ideas and recipes for that on Pinterest)
  16. Tastefully packaged home made preserves (pats, candied lemons, tomato sauce, apple sauce, marmalade…)
  17. Offer to teach someone a skill you have: blogging, cooking, photography, organizational skills, parenting tips to new parents (careful with that one)…
  18. Write and perform a song or a poem. The more humiliating for you the more fun and touching for them!
  19. Homemade soap or candles
  20. A memory box to your kids or significant other with old toys, drawings, important books, mixed tapes…
  21. 12 envelopes of date ideas for each month of the coming year to your significant other.
  22. A pet rescued for your kids. IF YOU’RE SURE!!!
  23. A quilt or pillow made with pieces of old clothes (clothing?) your kids used to wear and love. If you still wear the same perfume you did when they were kids, add a few drops on the fabric.
  24. Clay pots with seeds of common herbs like basil, parsley, chives etc.
  25. A mixtape of songs from the person’s teenage years.
  26. A divorce (no, I know, that’s too expensive)

Note: thoughtful gifts usually work better with adults. Only with adults I’m tempted to say. Kids want Pokemon cards and cheap plastic crap that will cost you an arm. I don’t give to the kids at Christmas anymore. I prefer giving them small gifts when I see them during the year. Their favorites are firecrackers, forbidden candy and other fun stuff their parents try to avoid buying them. Yes, I AM THE COOL UNCLE!

Note: charity gifts are wonderful and they make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside but most people won’t give a crap that you gave a goat or blankets to the poor in their name. Sad but true… I only give charity gifts to the people I don’t like :0)

Note: unless you are ABSOLUTELY SURE of a person’s tastes, do not offer art or clothing. You may love your own pottery and adore fuchsia scarves but… BE CAREFUL! Friends and family members will always praise your artwork. It’s their job! It doesn’t mean they always mean it and you shouldn’t assume they do. Believe me when I say I’ve been a victim as well as a perpetrator!

31 Comments Add yours

  1. terrepruitt says:

    I have been asking my sister-in-law (who at one point was very good with birthday cards – sending them) for a calendar with everyone’s birthday on it for a decade now. My other sister-in-law did the recipe book, but it was a collection of her mother’s recipes (after she had died). It was so awesome – I wrote a blog post about it – because it was a recipe book AND a little memento.

    Great list. I am just reading it now – in April. But I will make note of it so I can possibly use it for Christmas this year!

  2. chef mimi says:

    I wanna range rover. I still love when you bought a bunch of old frames, and have slowly filled them up with your beautiful prints as gifts. FAbulous and thoughtful.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’m really having a hard time with this… Even arts and crafts are expensive. Just printing pictures for everybody will come up to about 300€… I just wish I had a smaller family. Maybe I’ll pay you to poison a few of them the next time you’re here. I’ll give you a hit list 😉

      1. chef mimi says:

        Are you suggesting I make some bad food?!!!!

        1. My French Heaven says:

          No! Great food with a little rat poison in it. People’s last meal should always be delicious!!! 😉

  3. Such wonderful ideas! Last year, my son-in-law asked everyone in our family and his to write notes about what they love about his wife, my daughter. He put them all in a lovely gift box and I hear there were many tears on Christmas morning as she read them all.

  4. ratna says:

    Wow, you have covered pretty much everything. Excellent job and thank you.

  5. De bonnes idées! pour ma part je confectionne depuis très longtemps les cadeaux de Noël de ma famille, c’est une grande joie!!!
    Merci pour ce partage! un beau blog, de belles images! bonnes fêtes a vous!

  6. Your list is great and some are pretty funny! However, it reminds me it’s time to start thinking about compiling all my recipes into a “book” for my daughter before she leaves off to college next fall. ACK! 😮 Thank you for taking the time to post this, some of these are great ideas.

  7. oo, what great ideas! I may have to borrow some 🙂

  8. I’m with you, gifts of thought are the best gifts. I try each year to make some of the gift we give. Just depends on how much time I have!

  9. Really wonderful ideas here! Thank you!

  10. Vinny Grette says:

    Haha – I love the idea of giving a goat to an old goat. Hope you have no old goats in your own family who might be reading…

  11. I just adore #23. Smells can always transport me to a certain memory or timeframe. When I was living in Japan, my mom sent me a couple fabric scraps for a project she and I were working on. They smelled just like her! I cherished those little scraps of fabric, especially when I missed her.

  12. Love your post. I’m so glad we do not have a custom of giving Christmas gifts though I do exchange gifts with my close friends. (Not family. Stopped doing that a long time ago.)

    The new year holiday being our biggest and most important season for family gatherings and at which time the traditional thing to do is give cash gifts to kids (I give to my parents and they love me), while it may cost you more, there is no creative thinking process and which I’m sure is a relief to many.

  13. solaner says:

    a great list, Stéphane, and a great idea!

  14. Sandra says:

    What great ideas. You may have solved some problems for me. Merry Christmas!

  15. Natacha says:

    Love the list!!! With the spicy humor.. So true, it does not have to cost much. It should come from the heart with a lot of love. But try that on a four year old!!!

  16. Great ideas, Stephane. I do love Christmas and giving gifts.


  17. Sabine says:

    Fun to read, especially your notes on the pitfalls of giving…! I see you´re well on schedule with the gifts, can´t say that I am. HAve a great advent time!

  18. malgay651 says:

    If you were to give yourself that collectible old English convertible you would dearly love, you could offer lifts to family and friends all year long. There a gift that keeps on giving & you get to choose the colour…

  19. Francesca says:

    My husband often asks for a chrity goat each year… he has all he needs. I do like the 12 envelope with dates Idea though- definitely stealing this one.

  20. I love these ideas Stéphane! I’ll be printing this out, for future (very near) references of course. Blessed holidays to you!

  21. Linda says:

    This is a great list! So many wonderful ideas (except #26, of course! LOL) 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:


  22. colormusing says:

    Ooh, j’adore toutes cettes idées!! Merci, Stephane, et Beaux Fêtes!!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Joyeux noël my dear!

  23. Great list – Stephane!! You made me laugh on the last one…Yes – it’s expensive!! The photo ideas are always great hits with people, I agree!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’m going to go withe the family album in a box thing… I think…

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