A few years ago, during a period of unemployment, I decided to make my own Christmas gifts. I had my family and my then-boyfriend’s family as well as friends who I felt I should give gifts to.   What followed was a period of frustration and exhaustive work that lasted the month before Christmas and ultimately helped me realize how much my time was worth. Allow me to explain.

One can do a simple cost breakdown to see the value of some sample homemade gifts. Here are breakdowns for some of mine:

What: Scarf
For: My sister
Raw Materials and cost: Yarn, $10
Amount of Time spent on gift: 10 hours (it was my first scarf, and a long scarf that involved fringe)
Value of Gift (materials + time compensated at minimum wage): $80

What: Candles
For: Mothers and sisters
Raw Materials and cost: gel stuff, wicks, containers to put candles in, $50. Used pots and oven in my mother’s kitchen.
Amount of Time spent on gift: 3-4 hours
Value of Gifts (materials + time compensated at minimum wage)= $71-78 for four candles

What: Soaps
For: Everyone
Raw materials and cost: soap stuff, dye for soap (don’t use food coloring; it will dye people’s skin and make them laugh at you), fragrance, $15. Used molds from my mother’s kitchen.
Amount of time spent: 2 hours
Value of Gifts: $29

What: Chocolates
For: Everyone
Raw materials and cost: Truffle materials, $20
Amount of time spent: 2 hours
Value of gifts: $34 for 8 small packages

I made more than this and a few more specialized gifts for close family. I calculate now that I spent about $200 on supplies including packaging to put my homemade gifts in (baskets, jars, bags, pretty ribbons, cards). I spent about 20 hours making the gifts, which doesn’t sound like much, but the State of Maine values this time to be at least $140. My $340 was far from cheap, even though some gift recipients thought my gifts to be small trinkets (and they are, thankfully, no longer receiving gifts from me).

So after my experience, would I encourage someone else low on funds to make gifts for the holiday season? Maybe, but I certainly won’t do it again. It is much less time and effort to go out and buy a gift, even an inexpensive one than it is to think of homemade gifts, research how to make them, and actually make them. It is also much more economical to buy that scarf in the bargain bin or those little candles for 50 cents each than to try to recreate them yourself.

So when I receive a homemade gift from someone, I feel a little more grateful than I would have in the past. Because good things take time and how valuable is something from the heart made with the hands?

Homemade gifts, I salute you but admire you from afar… Well ok, I am making something for my mom this Christmas. :^) What can I say, I couldn’t resist…plus I know she appreciates it.