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Creative Gift Ideas for Birthdays, Holidays, and Special Occasions

Updated on August 5, 2017
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Lena Kovadlo is a writer for various content-sharing websites. She's the author of 12 books and helps other authors publish theirs.


Creative Gift Ideas vs. Monetary Gifts (Cash, Personal Check)

Have you ever found yourself in the following situation?

Your friend or family member is having a birthday or is planning to celebrate a special occasion and you are invited to the event. You can't just come there empty handed so have to brainstorm creative gift ideas for that person. You spend a long time pondering what to get, reject what you come up with and end up with nothing in the end.

Sure you can just stuff money into the envelope or write that check but that is not always a great thing to do.

In my opinion writing a check or stuffing money into the envelope is a way out of the situation. It is an impersonal gift, no matter how big the amount, and shows that the person doesn't care enough about you to go out and buy you something nice. The person doesn't want to put in even a little bit of effort to find you a gift. He/she just writes you a check or counts out some bills and calls it a day.

I am always left disappointed when some of my birthday gifts end up being money. I accept the money because I can't give it back, as that's a rude thing to do, however I am left with an urge to give it back. Yes, I can take this money and go buy myself whatever I want but I could do that with my own money. I don't need someone else giving it to me to splurge on something nice for myself.

If you go out to a restaurant or a catering hall to celebrate a birthday or a special occasion does not mean that you have to gift money or write out a check. You can still give a gift. So, try to stay away from gifting money or writing that check, whenever possible.

Unique Gift Ideas - Creative Birthday Gifts, Gifts for Special Occasions

If you are looking for creative birthday gifts or other creative gift ideas you've come to the right place. Below you will find unique gift ideas whether they become birthday gifts or gifts for special occasions or holidays for loved ones, friends, and other people you know.

Greeting Cards

Instead of buying a greeting card from a store consider creating your own unique greeting cards. It will make for a unique personal gift and will give you something fun and creative to do as well. Of course just gifting a greeting card is not enough so you will have to come up with other gift ideas to go along with it.

Photo Albums

Create a photo album that will serve as a memory book of the past and present and be a treasured keepsake for generations. There are many kinds of photo albums you can create.

  • Travel photo album - Include pictures along with captions of the places that you have visited with your loved ones or friends over the years.
  • Grandchildren photo album - Include baby and childhood photos and work your way up to teen and young adult years, etc, if applicable. Include interesting captions and facts about the grandchildren. For example: April 1, 2012 started walking... June 5. 2012 uttered first word mama... October 1, 2012 started first day of day care.
  • Special occasion photo album - Include pictures from special occasions or celebrations. For example: 40th birthday celebration, marriage, anniversary, graduation, bridal shower, baby shower, recital, concert, etc.

Family Portraits

Create a family portrait to hang on the wall. Browse through your photo albums and find the best photo of your whole family and turn it into a family portrait or a painting. You can even select more than one photo and combine it into one portrait. Be sure to select an interesting frame to go along with it. as that is important.


Make a unique quilt using things from your possession that mean something special to you. You can use towels, blankets, materials from clothing, etc. Be as creative as you can and want to be.


Make a collage that will feature special moments and occasions that happened in your loved one's your friend's life, or your life. Be creative here. You can draw, glue things from magazines, etc. Consider it as a special art project.

Tea/Coffee Cups and Mugs

Don't just simply buy a cup/mug from the store. Find a place that allows you to put your own pictures and/or words on it. This will make for a unique and special gift and your loved one will enjoy his/her tea/coffee even more. This may even brighten his/her or day if he/she is feeling down.

Poetry on Images

Select a beautiful image (whether taken/done by you or by someone else) and add some beautiful poetry or an inspirational message on it. Then make a photo out of it, and place it inside a beautiful frame that can be hanged on the wall or placed on a table top or shelf. The gift will be more unique and more special if you write your own poetry or inspirational message and if the photo used is one taken/done by you but if you feel that you can't accomplish this then you can use something that others have done. If you go to a greeting card store you will surely find something like this for sale.


Buy a gift of your choice, preferably one that the person will love and not want to return or exchange, and ask that it'd be engraved with a special message if possible. This gift will be treasured forever. You can engrave jewelry (rings, pendants, bracelets), iPods, iPhones, iPads, diaries, and I am sure a lot of other items.

Music Collection

Create an audio CD (more than one if all songs don't fit into one disc) of music by various artists that your loved one or friend loves but doesn't currently own. You can even include songs that speak to you or deliver a special message. If you have written and recorded your own songs you can create an audio CD just with your songs on it. Instead of creating an Audio CD you can buy an iPod or some other MP3 player and upload the music playlist onto it. While you are it you can even engrave it with a special message or greeting.

You can also buy actual CDs that the person has been looking to get, or those that you know he/she will love and listen to time and again.

A Movie Collection

Put together a collection of movies that the person loves and considers his/her favorite. You can include home made movies as well. You can buy regular DVDs or those that are collectibles. There are many special edition or deluxe edition DVDs available out there. You can even opt to buy DVDs of a popular tv series that you know the person loves and would love to own and watch again and again. For example, Full House.

A Book Collection

If a person loves a certain author you can gift him/her a collection of that author's books. If you can find autographed books by that author that will be even better. If you are an author yourself, gifting your own books and autographing them will make for a special gift. You can also gift books that have been turned into movies, or those books that have been written after movies have been released. An example would be the books of Nicolas Sparks that have been turned into hit movies.

Try to stay away from gifting self-help books because that may hurt the person's feelings and may even result in a bad relationship with that person.

For example:

If the person has kids and you gift him/her a book on how to raise kids he/she may think you consider him/her an unfit parent. Instead of the gift being special it will be hurtful and the person may be mad at you and your relationship may be damaged.

Scratch Lottery Tickets

This is another great gift idea. They don't cost a fortune and you provide your friend or loved one the opportunity to win some money, maybe even a huge amount. Plus, it is fun, especially the crossword scratch games... You can buy a lot of scratch tickets that are $5 or less and it won't even cost you a lot of money. You can also try buying regular lottery tickets like Mega Millions, etc. But the scratch ones are better as people have to scratch them to find out if they won anything as opposed to just checking online for the winning numbers.

Coming Up With Cool Gift Ideas

Unique creative gift ideas for family members you've read above can also be used for friends or people you may know. Just make sure that the gifts apply to your friends and not to family members.

For example:

You don't want to gift your friend a portrait of your family, unless your friend happens to live far away from you. So instead of a family portrait you can create a portrait of your friend - whether alone or with you or with other people. Basically, adapt your gift idea to the person you are gifting that something to.

Another way to come up with cool gift ideas for family and friends, whether it's gifts for special occasions or just birthday gifts, is to ask that person if there is something special or unique he/she has been dreaming of getting for him/herself. You can even ask others who know this person for suggestions...

When you buy a gift it is not the monetary value that is important. It's the sentimental value of the gift that is key. Just because something cost hundreds of dollars doesn't mean it's a great gift. And just because something costs a small amount of money doesn't mean it's a crappy gift. Also, if you receive a gift that's worth a lot of money doesn't mean you have to give that person a gift worth just as much. So if you can't afford a very expensive gift don't worry. Just remove the price tag before gifting that item.

When buying a gift for someone make sure you know the person's likes and dislikes. You don't want to get something that he/she hates or is allergic to or that will become useless. Not only is it a waste of money on your part but it will not make the person happy.

More than once I've received perfumes for my birthday. I can't stand perfumes and never use them so getting them for my birthday is not only useless and a waste of money but it gets me down. I can't gift the perfumes back since that's rude so end up throwing them out.

© 2012 Lena Kovadlo


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