Christmas presents: choice or challenge?

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., Dec. 5, 2012
- Contributed Photo

Some people just really like to shop, so the Christmas season doesn't present an unusual challenge for them. That's just not me. I really have to think - no, contemplate - when I have to buy presents. It's just not second nature for me. If you are one of those people, too, or if buying for a home handyperson does present a challenge, I have done the contemplation for you.

First of all, let me just say that this is a male and female decision. I won’t play a gender game with DIY; anyone can do it.

By the time December arrives, I can only say, "You should have been paying attention months ago." But it's not too late to find out what his or her likes and dislikes are. Start a casual conversation to see what surfaces. It's also a good idea to review the past 12 months, bringing to mind the projects that did or didn't get done, or the planning and dreaming that never translated into visible results. Was there mention of not having the skills or the right tools? With that as your lead, visit the big home store or local hardware shop, and present it to the salesperson. It's also a good idea to take some photos of the home workshop, and the tools your DIYer uses all the time. A good salesman or woman should be able to key on that photo array as a starting point, and come up with suggestions to fill the gaps or replace aging or low-tech tools and gadgets.

If you can't find the right equipment to buy, wrap and put under the tree, it might be good to help nudge your DIYer in the right direction. Workshops, classes and other forms of training are also good options for someone who is handy with tools and has the vision to make things happen. Many times it's just the lack of understanding, or making the time to get on the right track. Woodworking classes are easy to find, and there are opportunities for education in other fields as well.

I get many of my best ideas from magazines and books. “The Family Handyman” and “Fine Homebuilding” are good examples, but there are many more from publishers like Taunton Press. Many magazines do not publish monthly. Some are quarterly, while others offer eight or 10 magazines per year. Keep in mind that almost every magazine in print has made some type of transition to a digital version. Subscribing to the hard copy versions does not always grant access to the depths of the publisher's online articles and projects. Do some research on this before you make that decision.

The first place to look for good project books is at one of the big home products and do-it-yourself stores. But there is always a section of similar works on the shelves of the big bookstores. “Creative Homeowner” and “Reader's Digest” publish good material in this realm.

If you just can't come up with an idea for that “just right” gift, you are still not out of options. One of the best gifts I received this year was a universal gift card for home improvement stores. When my old shop vacuum just couldn't spin up anymore, I did without for quite some time. Then I remembered that card, and the solution was at hand.

To make it look like you really put a lot of thought into it, package the card in or with a catalog (or catalogs) from one or more stores. You can also team it up with one of those project books. If you know your DIYer has been dreaming about something specific, such as creating a woodworking shop, expanding the home workshop, branching out into auto mechanics, home audio and theater or another field, you should tailor the reference material in that specific direction. And if you haven't a clue where to find periodicals to add to the package, just perform an Internet search on magazine subscriptions in that arena. You will be amazed at the selection.

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