11 Thoughtful, Customized Gifts That Will Make People Feel Loved

Looking for customized gifts? Or last-minute present ideas? These gift ideas are thoughtful, easy, and not particularly expensive ... and you print a lot of them right for your computer or purchase on Amazon Prime!

I’m pretty convinced I’m good at gift giving (here are my best tricks).

Oh, that really weird, expensive soap you mentioned that you loved but couldn’t justify buying?  I’M ON IT.

Your hilarious obsession with Gayle King’s column in O magazine?  I will scan a year’s worth of pages and have them made into a journal. You’re super stressed and working three jobs?  If I’ve got a key to your place I will secret clean it and then stock the fridge with groceries.

If you’d like to show the people in your life that you love them (or if you’re not a gift registry type) here are 11 things you can buy that a) aren’t insanely expensive b) are pretty stinking thoughtful.   

11 customized gifts that will help you win Christmas or Hanukkah

Hard cover or signed editions of their favorite books

If someone you love is a Reader, I’m sure you know their favorite books and authors. Wouldn’t they love a prettily designed hardcover version of Pride and Prejudice? Or Anne of Avonlea? If you want to get realllllly crazy, buy them a signed edition of their favorite book – use the ‘signed books’ option on Bookfinder.

Lessons or classes for something you know they want to do

If they’re always talking about how they’d like to take a Salsa class, or study French, or cook Thai food – buy them some classes!  And luckily for you, you can frequently find classes at very reasonable prices on Groupon and LivingSocial.
If you’re worried that a gift certificate makes for an uninspiring gift, buy something cute and little (a jar of peanut satay sauce or some brie) that is representative of the lessons and then wrap that.

A photo album of their best Facebook/Instagram photos from the last year

Most of us upload our photos to the internet and then let them sit there.  Stalk your friend’s Facebook albums or their Instagram feed and make some of the best photos into a sweet little album.
Shutterfly makes cute, affordable photo books and Prinstagram makes The Cutest teeny tiny photo albums – 3 for $10!

Make a cookbook of your family’s best recipes

When you live far from your family you miss the meals your mom made (I loved South of The Border casserole and pan-fried Sunfish as a kid.)
If you have access to the family recipe box, have a dig through and make your favorites into a cookbook. If you really want to go above and beyond, scan in the recipe cards with your grandma’s handwriting.

Have a custom painting made from their favorite photo

If she’s had the same Facebook profile photo of her and her dog forever or you know that she loves that photo of her and her grandma, have it made into something a little more fancy.  Etsy is filled with people who will make your photo into a painting. Watercolor! Acrylic! Silhouette!

Vintage toys or action figures from their childhood

For the record, I would love a Strawberry Shortcake doll or a She-Ra doll. Ebay is your answer for all things vintage-toy related.

Convert their old home videos to DVD or digital formats

Oh, goodness. When I was at my parents’ house this summer we unearthed some old home movies and I laughed so hard I cried/stopped making noise/hyperventilated a little bit.
There are lots of companies who will convert VHS to DVD and if you’ve already got them in DVD and it’s relatively easy to convert DVDs to mp4s. If you’re feeling fancy, use a video editing program to add music and text.

Something from their home town/state/country

When I lived abroad, I asked my mom to send me ranch dressing mix, vegetarian chili mix, Betty Crocker brownie mix, and the creepy orange Kraft mac’n cheese powder. If your friend is living far from home, they’d probably love a package of stuff they can only get in their home state or country. It could be local candy, preserves, coffee or cheese.

Make a donation in their name to a charity that means something to them 

If they really, really have everything make a donation to their favorite cause. You could ‘adopt’ their favorite animal (you can adopt this otter in my name, friends), sponsor a community garden in their neighborhood, or write a check to an NGO in a country they visited.

Pay someone else to do chores they don’t want to go

Give them a gift certificate (like, from an actual service provider – not a hand written gift certificate that says you’re going to do this stuff) for some of those things they hate to do. House cleaning! Pick up/drop off laundry! Snow removal! Mowing! Gutter cleaning!
Again, you can usually find discounts on these services through Groupon and Livingsocial or give Taskrabbit a try! If you want to be clever, attach the gift certificate to a cheap bottle of wine and tell them to drink it instead of shoveling snow.

A modern mixtape

No, sharing a Spotify playlist doesn’t count! This jumpdrive mixtape is adorable and a perfect mix of old school and high tech. Include songs from fun adventures you had this year and songs from your past. If you’re really ambitious, cut out pictures from magazines and glue them on the outside.
Tell me about the best, most thoughtful gifts you’ve ever received! And are you a good gift giver?
photo by annie spratt // cc

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  1. Lynsey @ Eternally Wanderlyn

    These are great ideas. One year I gave my sister a Punky Brewster doll exactly like the one she had when she was little (that I may have written all over). It was still in the box and she loved it! Plus, now I don't have to hear about how I wrote all over her favorite doll when I was 2. 😀

  2. Katzi Roman

    What great ideas! Thank you for sharing! ^__^

  3. Erin @ Red Debted Stepchild

    Wow, I definitely have to get better at giving gifts. You are an extremely thoughtful gift giver!

  4. Rachael

    My family is pretty great at gifts. I've gotten Wusthof knives (the best, according to my Austrian relations), classes from bluegrass fiddlers when I was studying violin, handmade doll clothes (made by my Gma in 1940s reproduction prints in reproduction doll patterns, in styles Gma had worn as an 8 year old in the 1940s, for my Molly American Girl doll–those are saved for my own child someday), but the most special one I see every day is a bit of a story. When my great-grandma died when I was in high school, my current geeky hobby was counted cross stitch. When we were clearing out Gran's storage unit, a sampler she had made for the Bicentennial was unearthed, and my Gma declared it was mine, but it hung on my parent's wall in all it's "framed in 1976 glory" for several years. When I graduated from college, my mom had it professionally cleaned and framed, and now hangs in my living room.

    The gift I'm most excited about GIVING this year is a book on how to draw cartoon-y animals for my cousin who exchanges handwritten letters with me, and always draws little stick figure creatures on them and then talks about how she's such a terrible drawer. And yeah…we're both almost 30. 😉

  5. Linda

    One year, when my parents were renting a house while their's was being built, my mother was distraught that she couldn't decorate for Christmas. Everything was in storage. I called up a florist in her 'hood and had a decorated tree delivered to her. She cried. I was the undisputed favourite daughter for about six months. No gift has ever matched the impact of the tree.

  6. Brittany

    Thanks for sharing this list. I would be happy receiving any of them. I must add this post to my favs and share it.

  7. Stacia, the Homey Owl

    Top on my list this year was a class I want to take to broaden my horizons in my small business next year – but it's also a for fun, relaxing class. It's something I'll get myself if I don't get it for Christmas, but classes are such a great gift to give!

  8. Perfect Etch

    Wow, thanks for the tips ! I've got a lot of ideas now for giving gifts, thanks for sharing ! But if you want a customized gifts like etching and engraving, please visit – http://www.perfectetch.com/personal/ for personal gifts.


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