Perform a skit. Skits can be a marvelous way to let someone know how much you care about them. They can be humorous, as in the film 28 Days (2000), or they can be quite serious. One scene or many. Simple or elaborate. The details are entirely up to you. A few tips to keep in mind when performing a skit: always face the audience at an angle, speak loudly, and make sure somebody has a video recorder on hand to give a copy of the performance to the gift receiver. You could even start a collection and compile it ten years down the road into a single filmed performance.
Write a letter or poem. Hallmark is a wonderful company, but the concept of walking into a store and picking out a sentimental card hasn’t always existed. It’s easy to forget the power of a handwritten letter when we’re surrounded by screens and already-written four-dollar cards. Take pride in carefully selecting your stationary, pen, and envelope. Then write (in your best handwriting) why you appreciate your friend and how they’ve improved your life. Include a memorable photo of the two of you. To make a letter or poem more elaborate, take up calligraphy and fasten the envelope with wax and a personal seal. You can also present the letter or poem on a scroll of parchment.
Write a song. If you’re musically inclined (or if your friend is), write a song. You can either perform with a musical instrument or sing to a non-lyrical tune played from your computer or iPod. No instrument skills required. Write a summary of how you feel about your friend, then highlight the words and phrases you’d like to use in a song. List these words and phrases, replacing certain words with rhyming synonyms as necessary. Find an appropriate tune and arrange your song to accommodate pauses in the music. Practice, record the song on a CD or computer cam, and present live.
Mix a CD or two. Mixing CDs is an alternative for those who would rather not write a song of their own. They can be just as meaningful if you make your song selections wisely. Think of the CD(s) you’re mixing as the soundtrack to your friendship. Choose songs from concerts you’ve attended together, road trips you’ve been on, radio stations you’ve listened to, and movies you’ve watched. The songs should be instantly recognized by the listener. Once you’ve finished mixing the CD(s), label them – but be wary of permanent marker bleeding through and making your songs skip. Listen to the CD(s) from start to finish to test your gift. Then take some time to decorate the cases with a small photo collage.
Present photographs or video. Many things can be done with these forms of media. Photographs, for example, can be framed professional portraits or framed handmade collages. Digital picture frames even make it possible to organize a slideshow of memories (a free alternative would be a transferable screensaver created via PowerPoint or Flickr). If video is your thing and you have access to video of your friendship, free downloadable software like Windows Live Essentials: Movie Maker can help you edit raw footage into a masterpiece. The only catch is that you need a computer powerful enough to simultaneously play and edit video. Otherwise a slideshow might be your only option.
Create a painting or drawing. No artistic skills required. Free photo editing software provided by websites like BeFunky.com allow you to apply “artsy” special effects to an uploaded photo. You only need access to a high quality printer to bring the painting or drawing to life. Having the ability to paint or draw from scratch is still ideal for things like turning your friends into comic book superheroes, but they aren’t skills learned overnight.
Create a game. More specifically, a general-audiences board game or a safe 21-years-old game. You can even create a video game, thanks to articles like How to Make a Videogame (with no experience). For the youngins or the of-age crowd, for the coffee table or the computer, a personalized game can be entertaining for both the giver and receiver. Start by deciding the general concept or motivation of the game. Does it follow a simple Candy-Land-style path (possibly lined with cards of memories, “ghost challenges” from the past, and/or friendship trivia questions)? Or is your game a complicated quest through elaborate settings while battling common foes and gaining valuable allies? Once you’ve created a concept, create paper doll or 3D characters and draw up a list of rules. While creating a game from scratch is more personal, you can use concepts from other games if necessary. Doing things like elaborately decorating chess pieces is available as a backup option if you begin to feel overwhelmed.
Bake treats or cook a dish. Most of us would rather eat than bake or cook. And if it’s true for us, it’s probably true for our friends. Depending on what you decide to cook or bake, you could make a lasting impression. We’ve all eaten chocolate chip cookies before. But have we all eaten dried peaches and feta cheese on a pizza? I have, and I still remember being dubious before I tasted it. The slight sweetness of the peaches against the strength of the feta cheese was magnificent! If you have a unique, creative recipe that could be called a “secret weapon” or “the best ______ EVER”, consider making it and presenting it as a gift. Include a detailed recipe… if you’re willing to give it up.
Present a memory jar. A perfect gift for a close friend, the idea behind the memory jar is to jot down memories you’ve shared on folded slips of paper and drop them into a decorated jar. When the giving occasion arises, present the jar and let your friend read the memories (either alone or in a crowded room). It’s possible to put this gift together a day or so before the giving occasion, but more enjoyable if completed as the memories occur. This idea is also fun for families who share a jar and then read through the memories together when a holiday comes along. Almost any jar will do. Decorate it with photos and memorabilia. The more memories recorded and the more detailed they are, the better.
Create a family newsletter. This is a great idea for those looking for a little extra something to send out with the Christmas cards. My aunt and uncle have been doing this for years. Every Christmas, we receive a family newsletter from them summarizing family events/vacations and changes over the past year. They designate a paragraph or two to each immediate family member and include several photos. As they continue this tradition, our collection of their newsletters continues to grow and it’s something we look forward to every year. Creating a family newsletter can be a family or individual project. Just make certain it has the stamp of approval from each family member before printing.
Create a family book. This idea is similar to the newsletter, but much more detailed. A family book can contain secret recipes, memorable handwritten stories, newspaper clippings, photos, and more. You can create a new one each year or expand the same edition little by little. If you’d rather not compile everything into one book, consider narrowing it down to a family cookbook or a family storybook. Present the book on Christmas morning or another time when you can flip through the book as a family.
Offer your time. The above gifts all take time to create, no doubt about it. But if you offer even just five hours of your time to someone to spend how they choose, they may opt to have a date night while you watch the kids or to finally get some yard work done with your help. Depending on your abilities or schedule, you may want to outline labor parameters and/or blackout dates. The most important part of this gift is to follow through. It does no good to promise something if you aren’t planning to fulfill it. The sooner, the better. Otherwise people become busy and the favor you offered becomes a distant memory.
Have an unmentioned idea for a gift that doesn’t cost anything? Share it with our readers in the comments section below.
If you’ve found Live-Creatively.com to be a valuable tool in improving the quality of your life, please consider making a donation to help support it. Your contribution through PayPal is appreciated.