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The Hard-Earned Highs and Lows of Homemade Versus StoreBought Gifts

By: Lilyen McCarthy

Ask my sister, my best friend or an ex-boyfriend (although I do not recommend that conversation). I go above and beyond for gifts and struggle to hold back the surprise until the day I’m supposed to give them. Nothing is better than a tear-jerker reaction or complete overjoy at one of my loved ones being presented with their gift.

I have given a wide variety of gifts: a self-made lollipop tree, concert tickets, shoes, gift cards and a basket of goodies. Throughout it all, I experienced the ups and downs of both store-bought and handmade, so I will give you a list of them all from my own experience.

For store-bought gifts:

As quick as buy, wrap, give. Buying the gift to wrap and give to your loved one doesn’t require as much hands-on activity or preparation as its handmade counterpart, so it can be less time consuming to gift. For those with a busier schedule and not enough time to put together a heartwarming project, the store-bought gift is quick, easy and still makes your loved one happy.

Store-bought can feel less personal. My worst fear is someone opening a gift I have given to them and receiving a flat reaction. No matter how confident I am that a certain necklace, purse or pair of shoes is something that my friend or family member will love, I always get so stressed when they start to unwrap it. A new bottle of perfume might not be received the same as a photo album filled with memories.

They want it, they got it. “Yes! I’ve wanted this for so long. Thank you so much!” As much as I love surprises, I know personally that just getting something I need for free is sometimes just as appreciated as a surprise present. How can the gift-receiver be unhappy if it’s something they asked for? Get them something they want, and you can throw in a small surprise just to keep that tradition alive.

But isn’t the surprise the point? Many people might not see the point in unwrapping a gift that they knew they were getting in the first place. It’s not always a good feeling staring at the box under the Christmas tree knowing it is filled with those new towels you’ve needed for a semester or two.

Now, for the homemade gifts.

It’s the thought that counts, and there’s a lot of thought. Giving your loved one that perfect homemade masterpiece takes a lot of thought and consideration to the memories and affection you share. Looking at a homemade gift and seeing all the tiny details that go into it make the gift that much more special. Even the little mistakes, unlike the ones that might be present in a store-bought product, are endearing and sweet.

But who has the time? What if I’m not creative? I’ve been lucky in the past for the fact that my homemade gifts have always turned out looking nice or are nostalgic enough for the receiver to look past the mistakes. People who feel less creative might not be as confident in their homemade masterpiece. I was reconsidering that NBA jersey from Hibbett once 60 minutes of sticking lollipops into Styrofoam passed.

It’s a great gift on a budget. If you’re from a household like mine, there are plenty of miscellaneous arts and crafts materials to go around. Paint, modge podge and glitter glue are just sitting in a drawer of a cabinet or on a shelf waiting to be useful. All I needed for many of my homemade gifts were the added candy and basket.

At the end of the day, or the gift-giving season, both store-bought and handmade gifts are great options to give your loved ones. I’ve given both and have seen great reactions and, unfortunately, not the most excited reactions from either side. My favorite gifts have been not from the store or from the imagination of my loved one, but the area between. Buying an experience for all parties involved means you might have spent money on a ticket or nice dinner, but you bought the gift of new memories made as well.

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