practical christmas gift ideas – life skills

Lately, I’ve been subscribing to minimalist living blogs and philosophies, which is really hard to do when you’re a crafter, baker, cat-toy hoarder, and all-around enthusiast for cute, useless things. I’m also trying to push this philosophy on others this Christmas season. I’m really making an effort to provide useful gifts that won’t sit around on shelves collecting dust. While I already have my Christmas presents picked out, here are some “life skills” presents you may want to consider giving to the cherished ones in your life.

1. Cooking Classes – I am shocked, shocked, at the amount of people in my life who don’t know how to cook, don’t own a cookbook, don’t have any food in their fridge [ahem, boyfriend], only shop in the frozen food aisle, or just eat out for three meals a day. It’s costly, unhealthy, and stubborn. How is cooking that hard? It isn’t. Anyone can cook. I really think it’s a result of laziness and stubbornness. Sure, gourmet cooking isn’t for everyone, but simple, fast meals are important and there’s no excuse for not being able to prepare a quick something for an unexpected house guest or friend.

That’s why I suggest giving a cooking class as a practical gift. Try to avoid things along the gourmet or highly experienced line, unless you know they will use those skills. Many cooking class venues have “simple and quick” cooking themes.

Classes can be expensive, but you could also get your cherished one a “beginning cooking kit.” This could have a cook book, or just some of your favorite, simple recipes, along with a pot or pan, and some cooking staples. Some people don’t have things like baking soda, butter, cooking spray, or even chopping knives. It’s a great way to be creative. I would also offer them cooking dates, where you’re able to spend some quality time together.

2. Carpentry Classes – I know this sounds really intense, but it shouldn’t be. I’m signed up to take a carpentry class in the spring. Think about all of the things you can fix, refurbish, or create if you had some simple wood and nail skills.

3. Knitting or Crocheting Supplies – And then encourage them to sign up for a knitting/crocheting circle. These are great for making friends, gaining skill, and swapping gossip. Winter is the best time to bust out those needles and hooks and work toward warm, cozy handmades. You’re giving them the skill to create gifts to give other people.

4. Cheese Making Classes – If you have a foodie in your life, this class could be perfect. Creating your own cheese is a cheap and satisfying way to impress your friends, save money on gourmet cheeses, and add some homemade flavor to your favorite dishes.

4. Beer or Wine Making Supplies – There’s no doubt that home brewing is costly and difficult. But once mastered, it’s quite rewarding to have your own personal collection of beer or wine. The start up cost for home brewing is pricey, but after that, you can make cheap batches of tasty alcohol. Give them the gift of experimenting with flavors, naming their creations, and creating their own labels. Also, this is another one that’s great to re-gift. I’ve heard beer brewing is more successful in taste than homemade wine making, just keep that in mind.

5. Upholstery Classes – Have you ever seen an ugly couch at a thrift store, but it was the most comfortable thing you’ve ever placed your tush on? I know you thought to yourself, “If only it wasn’t so ugly…” Well, make sure your loved ones will never say those words again. Give them the gift of refurbishing chairs, couches, ottomans, or whatever else they want to take a gander at.

6. Cake Decorating Class – If some of the classes above seem a little difficult, cake decorating is something for any age and skill level. You don’t even have to know how to bake a cake or make frosting (hello, box mix). Cake decorating is a pretty, easy way to impress your friends. There’s always an occasion to bake a cake!

7. Sewing Classes – I see tons of blogs that have cute, very simple sewing projects. They often involve re-vamping a thrift store find. But when I read the comments sections, most of the comments go like this, “It’s so cute, too bad I don’t know how to sew.” What’s stopping you (or in this case, your friends)? Taking up a hem, fixing a button, or taking in a shirt are quick fixes that can save you money. The basic sewing class usually covers all of these. And for the more advanced seamstress try giving them a pattern making class.

8. Kombucha Brewing Kit – I haven’t seen these, but starting your own kombucha is pretty easy. So if you have a health-conscious friend that downs 7 bottles of $4.50 G.T.’s Kombucha a week, maybe tell them it’s time to switch to a cheaper option. Make life easier for them and buy them a jar, some cheesecloth, and start growing the mother, or SCOBY, before Christmas. Yeah, so it’s a smelly gift, but a delicious one. A simple Google search of how to grow Kombucha will help answer all of your questions about supplies and how-to’s. Once a mother has matured, it’s pretty easy to harvest a great quantity of Kombucha, because you can usually get more mothers from the initial one. Your friend will have to start giving Kombucha away, and guess who will be first in line.

If you’re afraid you’ll never be able to find these classes or supplies, all it takes is a google search. Many community colleges or technical colleges offer carpentry, sewing, upholstery, and many other life skills (plumbing!) for a cheap price. Your friends and loved ones will be happy to have less clutter and more useful skills they can share or profit from.

image source: cooking class, homebrewing, kombucha

3 thoughts on “practical christmas gift ideas – life skills

  1. I guess my question would be– where do you suggest taking these classes? Cool ideas, I’m just not sure where you would find them within a reasonable price range. Advice?

    1. Totally.
      Well, cooking classes can get expensive. I know the publix offers a variety of Apron’s cooking class for around $35 – 40 a piece. We also have local places like The Secret Pantry that offer cooking classes, which are sometimes in the same price range. The good thing about cooking classes is appetizer, dinner, dessert, and a wine pairing is usually included.

      I’ve taken a sewing class at a local community center for around $50. You can also find sewing classes at fabric shops, like JoAnn, which can be around $100 or more, I think, but I’ve never taken one. Also, most local fabric shops, like Mom & Pop stores, offer sewing classes to make more money and bring in business.

      I’m taking a carpentry class at the community college for about $150. They also offer tons of other fabric design, art, sewing, and photography classes, in addition to home repair classes. I’ve had my eye on some of the one-time Saturday classes on cabinetry or plumbing. Those are usually $35 – $50. We also have a technical institute that is sponsored by the city or county and they offer multi-week classes for around $75.

      I know our local co-ops provide cheese making and butter making classes for free, which is great.

      You really just have to do some intense Googling. Also, call around. A lot of the local stores that have classes don’t even have websites, and usually warrant a phone call. Hope that helps. Happy Christmas!

      1. Also, my boyfriend and I have learned to brew our own beer and make our own Kombucha from the internet.

        And I’m taking a cake decorating class at Michael’s for $25.

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