Gift baskets are a simple, creative way to personalize your gift-giving. After selecting an applicable theme, you can search for a variety of items within your price range to fill an appropriate container. By starting your selection early in the year, you can usually find bargains at seasonal close-out sales, yard sales and dollar stores. The whole process of personally selecting items, positioning them and wrapping the gift clearly says, “I care about you.”

There is a great variety of themes from which to choose. Movie-lovers would appreciate movie passes or movie rental coupons, packets of microwave popcorn, two-liter bottles of their favorite soda and concession-sized boxes of candy. Those who love to read would enjoy a book or a gift card to a bookstore along with a book light, bookmarks and perhaps a mug with a couple packets of hot chocolate. Coffee drinkers would appreciate a coffee grinder along with a pound of whole bean coffee, an appropriately themed mug, packets of flavored creamer and biscotti or specialty cookies.

Along with themed items, your choice of a complementary container will add a special touch to your gift. Baskets are always appropriate, but you could use a terra cotta pot for a gardener, filling it with gardening gloves, seeds, gardening tools and an ornamental plant stake. A cooler would make a great family gift when filled with beach towels, tote bags, beach toys, beach mats and sunscreen. A mixing bowl filled with brightly colored measuring cups and spoons, hot pads, small pans and a brownie mix could brighten someone’s kitchen. Use a tackle box for the fisherman and update his hobby with a fishing hat, lures and a net. Your options are endless.

When putting your items into the basket, box, bag or bowl, first place filler in the bottom to elevate the gifts and help position them. Filler can be tissue paper, newspaper, straw, fabric or shreds (Easter basket grass, cellophane, tissue paper, heavy paper, even wood and crinkle cut). If using newspaper, lay another fabric or paper on top to prevent the ink from bleeding onto the gifts. Fabric filler could be a towel, blanket or themed cloth cut from a bolt.

When your items are well positioned (glue dots may come in handy), wrap the gift in cellophane, shrink wrap or tulle (the sheer, fine netting seen most often in veils). You can purchase cellophane as bags or in sheets and rolls; it comes in clear, colors or prints. Shrink wrap is a transparent film that shrinks as it is heated; available in sheets or rolls, it also comes in a variety of tints. Tulle can be purchased in craft or fabric stores.

Add a bow (cloth, paper, straw, ribbon, etc.) and a personalized gift card, and you have a one-of-a-kind gift that is sure to touch someone’s heart. With thoughtful selection, you will present a gift that will be professional looking at a fraction of the cost-and undoubtedly remembered for years to come.

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