A Christmas Hail Mary: Homemade Gift Certificates


It’s December 23. You actually have all of today to shop and in most places, a good part of tomorrow. The price, of course, is your sanity and a lot of your time. But supposing you’re done braving the crowds, or you get to tomorrow evening and you are desperate, or perhaps you want to put a little time into your final effort. Let’s talk about the homemade gift certificate.

I know what you’re thinking: iTunes card (Starbucks card, Chipotle card). No. It isn’t that those aren’t fine gifts. In fact, please send some my way. But if you are going for the Christmas Hail Mary, you can’t go with that sort of card because it is simply too obvious. The homemade certificate is From The Heart! Certainly, it portends to be a little more so than does a shiny card for a million burritos. What do you give via this homemade certificate? Literally anything. They lend themselves especially well to experiential gifts, or gifts your receiver might actually want to pick out themselves but with your financial backing. They are staples in our house for things that are just impractical to put under the tree, or require more input from the receiver, like trips or a new (details unspecified) computer.

Still need ideas? Give the important child in your life

  • “one wild trip to the zoo!”
  • or perhaps “tea and cookies for six real friends and unlimited imaginary ones”
  • “a pass for you and a friend to the science museum”

Sky’s the limit, but don’t forget you DO have to deliver. Best also if Santa doesn’t bring these. His forte is really the wrapped under-the-tree item. Parents and important grown-ups can take credit for the trips to the museum, pizza parties, and other gift certificate surprises.

Now, how do you make this gift certificate? Easy peasy. In descending order of time, effort, and supplies, you can do:

  • The handmade, scrapbook paper certificate
  • The computer/Microsoft Publisher certificate
  • The greeting card certificate

The handmade, scrapbook paper certificate is bound to be the prettiest and demonstrate your greatest effort. Is it necessary? Probably not. Is it fun? If you enjoy that sort of thing. I do, and I generally have the requisite supplies so it’s a go-to for me. Pick some complementary paper, cut and glue in whatever shape or design you like, and write up a little note about your gift. Fully customizable. If you have an eye for these things, you know what I’m talking about so I’m not going to go much further.

Right now I’m 3,000 miles away from my craft table so, I will be skipping to plan B, the computer certificate, when I help my mom with a certificate for Fair Play Little Brother today. If you have Microsoft Office, you probably have Microsoft Publisher, a nifty program with gift certificate templates. Voila! Click some buttons, make a certificate, dress it up with pictures or clip art, print. You’re ready to wrap. If you don’t have Publisher, you can accomplish much the same thing in Word or Paint.


No access to a computer or art supplies? No worries. All you truly need is a greeting card (seasonal would be best…). Open that baby up, write about your gift. Done. This is the easiest route to a completed homemade gift certificate but probably the most clearly low in required effort. Be sure the gift you’re giving is fun and maybe makes up for that Happy Birthday card you just wrote it in.

You’re almost done! Now it is time to wrap. Think you can just put that card/printed certificate/piece of art in an envelope with a child’s name? Think again. You could, but remember, we’re trying to hide the last-minute nature of this gift. Also, you are giving an awesome gift, like a trip to the zoo or an ice cream date with a favorite friend, so no need to give up on it now. Children love to unwrap things so give them something to unwrap! Put that certificate in a box and wrap it up. In fact, go big. Young children especially get excited about huge boxes.


Et voila! You’re done. It’s possible you just gave a way cooler gift than you could have purchased anyway, so gold star for you. Sit back and enjoy the holiday!

Happy holidays from Fair Play!

(originally posted 12/23/12)


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