Personalized Gifts – Spend Less and Love More

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photo credit to Pink Sherbet
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Stop spending money on gifts of conspicuous consumption and start giving personal gifts that show your love and thankfulness for others.

The Power of the Homemade Gift

I am proud to say publicly that I love my mom!  Today I will share a poem I wrote her years ago that serves her as a daily reminder of the love I hold for her.

Remember as you read that with the holiday season coming up, instead of “buying” something for you mother (or other loved ones) take the time to create a personal gift from the heart.  Not only will it cost you less, more importantly it will breed thankfulness, encouragement, and love between you and them forever.  Even many years later, reading this poem will often bring loving tears to both our eyes.

To this day, my mother remains a consistent and endearing source of encouragement in my life.  She is and always has been my most staunch supporter.  She truly is a wonderful woman whom I love with all my heart.

Please enjoy the poem I penned for her more than 15 years ago.

A Sons Thoughts of Mom

My Mother is my friend
My Mother is my guide
My Mother teaches me
I love her

She lifts me through praise
She reads my soul
She knows me
I love her

In her is courage
And charisma, and life
She shines from inside
I love her

Her beauty is natural
She lives from her heart
She seeks love and truth
I love her

I believe in her thoughts
I believe in her heart
I know she loves me
I love her

My Mother is my friend
My Mother is my guide
My Mother teaches me
I love her

– written by Matt Jabs

Use this article as motivation to de-commercialize Christmas this year and return your family and friends to a focus on personal thankfulness and love.

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1 Lydia aka Ms. MoneyChat

oh matt that is a wonderful poem. i love the idea of de-commercializing Christmas.

2 Miranda

When you read about gifts given more than 100 years ago, you quickly realize that most people gave handmade gifts, small and meaningful trinkets, or even a treasured item they already owned. It truly was about the thought that went into the gift, and the feeling shared between giver and receiver. The commercialism and the greed are a big part of why my husband and I are cutting back on holiday gift-giving, even though this has been our most prosperous year of marriage. We don’t want to get caught up in the materialism of it all.

3 Matt Jabs

Like I have said many times before… I think these “hard economic times” are good for us in more ways than not. Congrats for separating yourself from the craziness! I’m sure you’ll be blessed greatly because of it.

4 Financial Samurai

Tell ya what Matt, somehow when I was growing up my mom ALWAYS got me a homemade gift. I just wanted a “He-Man” or “GI JOE” frankly though 🙂

But, given I was brought up that way, I’m used to just exchanging very simple gifts now.

I like telling everybody not to get me anything. Exchanging holiday photo cards is nice enough!


5 Matt Jabs

You are very blessed to have the mother you do… it sounds like she taught you well!

6 Mom

Just want to share….I am the mom of whom this post was written! The aforementioned poem came complete with frame and printed on beautiful blue sky/cloud paper as the most wonderful Mothers Day gift. It is still one of my most treasured gifts. It hangs in a conspicuous place in my home where I can be reminded daily of the love between my son Matt and I. All my kids can tell you that I still hang on to some of the precious handmade gifts and little trinkets they gave me as children. I still have handmade Christmas ornaments that go on the tree every year! I always like to say that part of love is not just the giving, but the spirit in which the gift is received. My appreciation of my childrens’ gifts are part of the loving spirit in which I received them and the fact that I publicly still display them underscores my appreciation and value of them as creative persons and will continue to do so for the rest of my life, and their lives.

Another way to decommercialize Christmas or any holiday is to get together as a family and create homemade decorations for the Christmas tree and the home. It can be done while sharing a meal together and brings a sense of the elusive Christmas cheer that we seek so hard to recreate in our lives from the television commercials while at the mall spending our hard earned dollars on decorations and gifts. One of Matt’s personal favorites is to make paper chains out of colored construction paper. One of mine is to create salt dough ornaments with cookie cutters and then after baking them, paint them and spray them with some sort of lacquer. They last for years and every year that I unpack them and carefully hang them on my tree, I am taking a trip down memory lane and remembering the warmth and satisfaction of sharing such an activity with my family.

7 Lydia aka Ms. MoneyChat

Mom, what a great idea. Can you or Matt do a post and give us the “recipes” for some of the homemade ornaments?

8 Matt Jabs

Oh man… my best memories of Christmas are when we started all these traditions! My mom was on a tight budget so she had us come over and do all homemade ornaments, etc. It turns out those are my most cherished memories of Christmas!

For those reading, we’re trying to set it up to have the family over this year to decorate our home with all those same homemade ideas… I am so pumped!

9 Mom

Hi Lydia, I just emailed Matt the recipe and the process so he can do a post on the ornaments! Hope you have lots of fun with it!

10 Jason @ RedeemingRiches

Great post! I’ve always been close to my mom as well and it’s cool to see that mother/son bond!

That’s a great idea to substitute purchasing gifts with making gifts this holiday season. Great way to save some money plus it’s more personal and meaningful anyways!

11 Nicki at Domestic Cents

I completely agree. Last year my husband and I decided not to purchase gifts for each other. Instead, we decided we’d write a letter for the other person to place under the tree and open on Christmas morning. I SO anticipated opening that letter. The anticipation of what my letter would say was equal to or even greater than the anticipation I’d felt previous years for a pile of gifts. I wept when I read my letter – best Christmas gift ever.

12 Matt Jabs

Isn’t it awesome!

I think everyone should commit to doing all homemade decorations, ornaments, and gifts for ONE YEAR… and see if you ever go back!

13 Money Funk

Ah the salt dough ornaments – my mother has a slew of them. They were our favorite thing to do when growing up. But I have never considered doing it with the whole family. What a great frugal idea. Sounds like a new tradition w/ a great potluck to accompany the day.

Not too long ago I wrote a post, Frugal Christmas Gifts Ideas – you might like
EOD’s Debt Free Christmas Challenge

Thanks, Mom for the great idea!

Hey Matt – we need that recipe!

14 Matt Jabs

My mom just emailed it to me. I’ll try to post it later this week!


15 Jesse

I’m a huge fan of the inexpensive as in price, great as in memorable gift ideas. Last year, I made CD’s for all of my brothers (6) packed with data. They had clips of old movies or cartoons we used to watch together, NES games we used to play together and on the front of each CD, I used a LightScribe burner to burn a collage of images that had some nostalgic importance to each of us. It was really great and they all loved em. Total cost was about $20, for the pack of CD’s which I only used 6/25.

16 Matt Jabs

Chalk up another vote for awesome, frugal, memorable Christmas gift that beat anything anyone could have purchased!

Way to go Jesse… what are you going to do to top it this year? 🙂

17 Jackie

As a mom, I totally agree. The gifts I love most are heartfelt and homemade. I tell you what, people don’t save expensive gadgets in their cedar chest the way I’ve saved some of the gifts from my son.

18 Michelle Traudt

Thank you for this post! I totally agree with you. We are working towards buying much less this Christmas and are trying to think of things to give our family members that mean something instead of just spending money on things that they may or may not use. We want to give special gifts and what a great example with your poem. It is beautiful and I know your mom cherishes that poem so much more than she would’ve anything you could’ve bought her. Thanks for the inspiration!

p.s. I’m also trying to come up with something very inexpensive, but really useful or meaningful to give as party favors for my daughters party that will be in a few weeks. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

19 Matt Jabs

Since we all know it is best, nothing should stop us from approaching Christmas (and all gift-giving occasions) differently from now on.

It’s worth mentioning that one of the best things we can do is to spend time together. Rounding up the family and decorating the home with homemade decorations is one of the best things you can do for your holiday season this year. I promise they will never forget it… and neither will you!

Let’s start some new traditions.

20 Robert Espe

I try to give away things I already have, this does a couple things. First, the gift is a meaningful sacrifice, and I reduce my possessions, which results in a simpler life and less cluttered house.

21 Mr. Not the Jet Set

Amen, Matt!

I can recall giving homemade gifts while in college, tho that was more out of necessity than a statement about consumerism!

The best was the one I made for dad. It was a picture frame. Fairly simple design, yet unique. Heck – it was made out of scraps from other projects (the scraps that would work happened to be white oak, but hey). In the frame, I put one of my favorite pictures from childhood – one of my father and I cleaning some antique toy tractors. I was probably 4 or 5 in the picture. It was only the second time I’d seen my father cry.

you can’t buy that.

22 Matt Jabs

The only time I ever saw my father cry tears of endearment and joy was the day I was baptized. He had that look that all sons long to see in their fathers eyes… he was proud of me. This story doesn’t necessarily relate to his post, but you can’t buy that either!


23 Samantha Porter

My most memorable Christmas was the year that my parents had the most difficult year financially. We had the last batch of laying hens taken away and the company wouldn’t supply new hens unless we built a very expensive “cage house”. Even then we wouldn’t be guaranteed birds and an income. So much for self sufficiency on a farm.

Dad worked odd construction jobs in the dead of winter in Maine to pay the bills. Both my parents made gifts for us. I can’t imagine how he and mom managed to make gifts after we had gone to bed. I don’t know how Dad could manage to stay up late and make toys after a long day at work in the cold. Then in the early morning he would have to get up and do it all over again.

Dad made me a doll bunk bed and toy trucks for my brother out of scrap lumber. Mom sewed quilts and pillows for the bed from scraps and my dad’s old police uniform shirts. She sewed us each a sleeping bag that looked like a turtle. They had a small amount of money and went to the 5 and Dime (remember Woolworths??? OK so I’m getting old) and bought a few inexpensive little toys. Each item no matter how small was wrapped up and put under the tree. Relatives had sent a few “store bought” presents, so we really didn’t notice the lack of commercialism.

As long as I live, I will always remember that Christmas as my favorite.

Anyone that doesn’t understand or appreciate a handmade gift in these tough economic times, doesn’t understand the true meaning of the holiday. Christ’s birth was a humble, simple event, in coarse accommodations. God chose to deliver his only son not in fanfare and pomp but simply. The gift was much greater than the “wrappings and trappings”. We should remember this when we both give and receive this season.

24 Matt Jabs

What an awesome testimony! I have committed to making Christmas “real” this year. Thank you so much for sharing Samantha.

25 Kate

One year ago next week, I had just had a baby so I was on [unpaid] maternity leave, so I decided to make all my Christmas gifts to save money. I had more fun making those gifts than I have ever had buying gifts before! The thought that goes into each thing is wonderful! The whole time I was making my mother-in-law’s apron, I was remembering all the fun we’ve had in the kitchen, and all that she’s taught me. This year I will be doing the same thing, planning for months what I’m going to make for each person and collecting supplies. It is so rewarding, knowing that you put so much thought and love into each thing, rather than just grabbing the nearest gift set you can find.

26 Unique Christmas Stockings

These are some gerat ideas that you bring up here, thanks for sharing. I think that personalized gifts can work both ways. For someone that is short on money, they can create a heartfelt personalized gift for someone. Additionally, you can also purchase a gift for someone and have it personalized with a custom patch or embroidery and it will add a special touch that will be unique to them.

27 Mozy

I am also making gifts for people this year and prob from now on. It’s not only “personal” but less costly monetary wise and the labor hours only show how much I love that person. BTW- I’m recycling jars and creating personalized crafts for my friends and family.

28 Kristy Collingwood

Love the ideas provided here about handmade gifts!! Father’s day approaching near and I’ll follow the ideas shared here to gift my father. Thanks

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