A battle ax, a massage chair, a piece of rice with a name engraved on it no one can deny the impressive selection of gifts at the mall.
Pre-law senior Danielle Dunn has one specific mall gift in mind.
"If my boyfriend doesn't give me a Build-A-Bear this Christmas, I'll be mad," she said. "I've built one for myself before, but it's not the same."
But as the shopping season kicks off Friday, creative gifts can not only be found in the hectic shopping centers, but also in thrift stores and your own home with odds and ends you already own. Here are a few ways to create a personalized gift and keep trips to the bustling plazas at a minimum.
When it comes to holiday shopping, purchasing just the right gift can, well, lead to purchasing more Tylenol. Sometimes buying the necessary items for inexpensive homemade gifts could earn you extra brownie points, rather than paying $200 for a may-never-be-worn sweater. The person who is receiving the gift will appreciate it a lot more, and at least they'll know you actually put some thought into it.
To keep your gifts fashionable and stylish, a tote bag could be the perfect present. There is a large selection from which to choose. Whether the person enjoys traveling, going out or just needs an extra bag for all those schoolbooks, creating one to fit their preferences should be a no-brainer.
You could even spice it up with a design of your own. There is a wide variety of designs to choose from, including sports, a holiday theme and creative patches (depending on who you're buying for). Creating a bag based on a student's major also could work. Music is often a favorite.
If you have a hard time trying to decide on the right design, think about what connects you as friends or family. Maybe a decorative patch could have an "inside" history behind it. A tote bag and the necessary decorations can be purchased at any arts and crafts store. Tote prices vary depending on the size, but patches can run as low as 99 cents.
International relations senior Laura Satterfield said she paints candleholders and wooden frames she purchases from thrift stores, making old and sometimes ugly items into new gifts.
Satterfield said she scavenges at thrift stores to make her gifts personal, save money and avoid department stores during the holiday season.
"You have to like doing that sort of thing," Satterfield said. "When you go to a thrift store, it's all about the hunt."
Even people who don't have the inclination to decorate thrift-store items might appreciate the extensive used dishware selection at Valueland, 5400 S. Cedar St. in Lansing.
The store has coffee mugs, tea cups and plates on sale for $1 to $3. The mosaic of colors and styles of different generations can be an eyesore, but there are individual sets that are quite attractive when viewed with a good eye for style.
Plus, they are less expensive than cups at www.Anthropologie.com, which can run from $6 to $10 each.
Framing art from magazines can be an inexpensive, thought-worthy gift. If a friend loves fashion, frame a glossy Vogue cover he or she can use as a decoration for the bedroom. If a friend is interested in animals, frame a picture from National Geographic magazine. Because this gift doesn't cost much, give friends collections of framed photos from their favorite publications so they can have matching sets.
You can also dress up a small corkboard by framing it, then pinning a pattern, drawing or piece of art to the board, turning a casual decoration into an artful attention-grabber.
Journaling will never get old, but sometimes buying a plain journal doesn't bring any excitement.
There are many journal covers to choose from. Once again, take time to consider what the person likes, then go from there. Sketchbooks, a diary or a simple journal could work. Adding a quote from scripture, an inspirational story or a funny quote can add extra flair to the journal. Even placing a photograph on the inside cover of the journal makes it worth more.
Journals can be purchased at any department store, such as Target, Wal-Mart or Kmart.
Hobbies to go
Show friends and family you care by giving them individual, themed gift packs.
For the movie lover, include jumbo-sized candy, popcorn and a Blockbuster gift certificate. Take note of friends' favorite movies and actors. If they like comedies, add funny DVDs to the package. If Audrey Hepburn is a preferred actress, buy classic films like "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Funny Face" and "My Fair Lady."
For the constant traveler, fill a gift pack with items that can be used on a plane or during a long car ride.
Include activities like crossword and Sudoku puzzles, magazines and travel-sized checkers. Also stick in the package small snacks like granola bars, mini bags of pretzels and bottled water. Don't forget to give them a travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste so they can freshen up before reaching their destination.
Supply sports fanatics with athletic-themed gift packs. Include peanuts, sports publications like ESPN The Magazine and pompoms. Give them their favorite team's apparel, such as hats, jerseys and key chains. For added brownie points, include two tickets to an upcoming sporting event.
Create a calendar
Though a calendar sounds like an ordinary holiday gift, adding pictures and personal touches could make it extraordinary.
The benefit of making a calendar is the artist never has to leave their home. A custom-made picture calendar can be created online.
Registering at Kodakgallery.com is free. Uploading photos is easy with the drag and drop features. There are different designs and layouts as well as caption boxes below the pictures to make it personal. The price is $19.99, plus shipping and handling costs.
Custom Jones Soda bottles
The search for a creative, personal and unique gift is over, and even better, it's a one-stop shop for multiple gifts. Myjones.com lets you upload a photo, choose a flavor and order 12 personalized sodas.
Be sure, however, that the photo is the right size and resolution.
The Web site provides tips for finding the right photo for the bottles.
Also, only one flavor is allowed per case, and only one photo is allowed per flavor.
It makes a unique gift because the bottles can be used for decoration after the drink is gone. Because 12 is the minimum order amount, the gifts can be shared among a whole group of friends.
Each case is $34.95, plus the cost of shipping and handling.
Staff writers Sarah Harbison, Yvette Lanier, Amy Oprean and Elizabeth Swanson contributed to this report.