Stage a Scavenger Hunt
The major difference between childhood and adulthood? Childhood was a lot more fun and cost a lot less. Tap into that kind of fun with a homemade scavenger hunt. Keep them guessing by hiding clever, handmade notes around the house. Watch them have a blast as they chase down their gift: the sofa, some friends, and a movie.
Personalize the Internet
Set them up with a Google reader account and put together a list of their favorite sites and blogs that you know they'll love. Not only does this show someone you care, but that you really know them too.
Every city in America offers some kind of free events, from movies to concerts. Check out Getrichslowly.org for tips on how to find them locally. Art galleries are always free and usually serve wine during the opening of a new series. Do some research, tell the recipient to get dressed up, then hit the town.
A Beauty Counter Makeover
Sure its something any girl can do at any time, but how often do they? Theres nothing like a cosmetic counter makeover. Theyre free and offered at almost every makeup counter in every mall or department store across America (high-end cosmetic boutiques like Chanel have them as well but require you to book in advance). Once she realizes that you took the time to plan out her makeover shell be touched and look awesome.
Lend Your Skills
Are you an excellent chef? Could your sewing skills rival the contestants of Project Runway? Put your skills to work and help out a friend with a project theyre working on. Or take some time for a tutorial and teach them a thing or two.
Be a Personal Stylist for a Day
Grab your beauty products — you have more than enough — and make over a friend for a big night out, a first date, or an office party. If your friend is male, use your shrewd fashionista eye and go through his closet. Pull out his best pieces and show him how to put together an outfit that will get double-takes.
Be the Help, for Free
Bartend, cater, or help decorate for a friends party. There is no sign of friendship like offering to take on someone else's stress. Being a hostess is draining, so your friend will really appreciate anything you can do to lighten the load of organizing a successful shindig.
Make a Personal Playlist
We're not suggesting you turn into Ducky from Pretty in Pink, but a well-thought-out playlist is great way to let someone know how much they mean to you never underestimate the power of a few great songs. Double points if you can dig up the equipment to make an actual mixtape!
Create a Funky Photo Album
Sure, you can share photos almost the minute you take them, but there is something special about holding a photo album. For a truly personal gift, gather some snapshots and paste them on to the pages of an old childrens book, or glue them onto a clipboard. Look around; there are many things that would make cool, unique frames or albums.
Get in the Kitchen
Open all your cabinets and see what you have to work with; fish out that box of brownie mix thats been sitting behind the cereal bowls for the last year. Nothing to cook? Take any kind of candy you can find, put it in an empty spaghetti sauce jar, and slap on some ribbon. No one says no to sweets this time of year.
Write it Down
Grab the fanciest paper you can find, sit down, and write a letter. It can be simple and sincere or just a funny tribute to your relationship with the recipient. Note: If you go the comedic route try writing a traditional sonnet in iambic pentameter. Its a fact that iambic pentameter makes anything funny even funnier.
Clean Out Their Fridge
It may seem a little odd, but barring severe OCD, everyone's fridge could use a little cleanup, and it's probably the only place you can throw out others' possessions with impunity. So grab some rubber gloves, get to work, and don't forget to scrub the crisper bins while you're at it. They will be thankful.
Make a Friendship Bracelet
You remember how to do it. Use some yarn or twine, dig up some old jewelry, beads, charms, or seashells and weave together an old-fashioned friendship bracelet. It got the sentiment across perfectly in 5th grade; it will do the same today.
Give Your Time
Its a simple gift thats always appreciated. Offer to baby-sit on a friends date night, walk their dog on a Saturday morning, or water their plants when theyre on vacation. A little extra unexpected free time is an invaluable gift.
Record a Movie
Set up the laptop, script out what you want to say, tap into your inner Scorsese, and let the magic happen. Even if youre artistically challenged, the sentiment will come across and the actual viewing is guaranteed to generate some laughs.
Get to Work
Shovel snow, help them move, or fix a leaky faucet. In five years she may not remember who gave her the gift card to Amazon.com but she will remember the hours you spent helping her haul boxes of books into her new pad.
Indulge your creative side and use your homemade skills to make something cool. Design an artsy bookmark, knit a beret, or tastefully rip up an old band tee. But be honest with yourself first; imagine how excited youd be, on a scale of 1 to 10, to receive this DYI gift. 7 or higher? Keep working, then wrap it up, and deliver with confidence.