10 Ways to Personalize Inexpensive, Cliché, or Otherwise Everyday Gifts

Day 10 of 30 Days of Thoughtful Giving: Personalize anything for a lil' something special.

We've all given something we could have maybe, just a little bit, thought a tad more about. Whether it was a shirt that looked like would be just fine for your second cousin or a notebook with butterflies emblazoned on the cover that you thought your coworker would probably use. Or maybe a shower curtain that was on sale (because who couldn't use a shower curtain?).

We've all done it. But for those of us looking to give just a little bit more this season, there are simple ways to turn your inexpensive, perhaps-somewhat-cliché presents into something personal and unique. Here are 10 ways to personalize everyday gifts of all kinds.

Photo by James Ransom
  • Give a journal, minus the first page: A journal says "you like taking notes," but a journal with a note from you inscribed on page 1 says "you like taking notes and I like you enough to take the time to write a little ditty to you, too." Tell the lucky recipient why they're great, anything about the journal (for example, this one's covered in soft, beautiful grey linen) or maybe write them a poem (or a haiku!).
  • Add the ingredients: My mom loves her butter keeper so much that when someone dropped it (I'm sorry, still), she bought another one and two other replacements just in case. You can stick with just giving someone one butter keeper, but include some good-quality butter and a nice loaf of bread to go with it.
  • A gift of solidarity: Give someone a yoga, kickboxing, spinning, or dance class pass to something they've been wanting to try out, but also promise to go with them. New things can be a tad scary, but much less so with a friend by one's side.
  • Jam plus a spreader sidekick: Make a big batch of jam, dole it out, and then hand-whittle spreaders out of sturdy sticks, like our Senior Graphic Designer Tim does! Yes, whittle. Tim says you don't have to be a crafty person—you just need a sharp knife, a good stick, some sandpaper, and a vision (see below).
Inspiration for novice whittlers. Photo by Tim McSweeney
  • A glass for you, a glass for...: Not many will bat an eye at a bottle of wine, but give someone that and a pair of wine glasses to go with it and maybe, just maybe, they'll share some with you.
  • Give it a name: Monograming a tablecloth or napkins is kind of like finding a keychain with your name on it—it feels better than any other keychain you have. (On a personal note, I have never, nor will I ever, been able to find one of these keychains, so I can attest to their uniqueness.)
  • From the archives: Type up your favorite pie recipe (you can explain why you love it in the recipe's headnote!) and laminate it—or write it out on a recipe card and frame it—and give it, along with a pie dish to one of your favorite bakers.
  • For the (cook) book worm: You know what's not fun? Struggling with keeping a cookbook open while one's hands are slathered with butter or mid-chopping or salting a chicken for roasting. A cookbook stand solves that! Add a signed copy, which feels personalized without you actually having to do any further personalization, of a cookbook (we have lots and lots of options here) and you're set.
  • Get cozy: A blanket? Yes, it's warm! A great gift, indeed. But add to that blanket plans for a movie night with some popcorn (and a hefty bowl or two of ice cream) and you add fun to functionally.
  • Great now, and great later: I will happily accept cheese for any and all gifts/celebratory occasions. For your favorite cheese-enthusiast, give them a sizable hunk (or two!) of cheese and a roll of this storage paper that prevents cheese from drying out and helps it last longer.

What's your favorite way to personalize a gift? Let us know in the comments!

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