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Great Gifts to Make with Your Computer

Black Belt Shopper (featured column)
by Larry Wiener

Last Sunday we celebrated my dad’s 80th birthday, quite an occasion.   He said he didn’t want any gifts, but I found that spending $3 and a little time and imagination allowed me to give him a gift that I think he will treasure more than just another shirt, CD, or book.

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What I did was use my desktop publishing and ink jet printer to make him a memory book.  The $3 was for the notebook to put it in.

I made a cover patterned after Time Magazine’s Person of the Year and included a picture.  Inside I put in a biography and more pictures, some scanned and others from my digital camera.

Your computer, desktop publishing program, and ink jet printer can be your tools to create any one of a number of gifts that are as inexpensive as they are meaningful.

Here are a few ideas of things you can make:


You can buy t-shirt transfers in most office supply or electronics stores. Following the directions for creating and printing you t-shirt (or sweatshirt, or other cotton apparel item) and your recipient will have something he or she will treasure for years.

Birthday Newsletters

You can make birthday newsletters announcing the birth of your recipient.  You can include comical news stories about his or her birth, movies that were popular that year, people with common birthdays, and other information.  Books, software programs, and websites are available to help you plan.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Office supply stores and computer stores have blank jigsaw puzzles with transfers you can use to create puzzles with pictures you print.  Directions are relatively easy to follow.

Gifts with Avery Labels

You can make bookplates, fancy return address labels, and other novelties with Avery labels.  Many programs, including Microsoft Works, have special printing routines for labels.  Look on the Help menus for how to do this.


Programs like Print Shop have calendar templates you can use.  You can include family pictures and other photos to personalize your work.  I make family calendars each Christmas and get them bound at my local office supply store for about $2 each.  You need to know this is a project that is quite ink intensive, so have a good supply of ink on hand (and be open to buying generic discount cartridges at sites like www.123inkets.com).

Gifts like this can be quite meaningful.  I have been doing them for sometime. To have them turn out the way you really want to, though, takes some planning and doing.

Here are some tips to help you create quality, meaningful gifts with your computer and printer:

- Start thinking about your creation well before the occasion. I started planning my dad’s calendar three months before his birthday.  That gave me time to get information, find the right photos, fine-tune the writing and layout, and enjoy creating it without being under pressure.

- Expect to go through several drafts.  I find that I never get all the spacing, phrasing, and other details right the first time.  I accept this and give myself the time to look at each draft and improve it.

- Have the right software.  You don’t need to spend a fortune on software to create nice gift products.  If, however, you plan to regularly use your computer to make gifts, quality software will save you frustration and will allow you to create gifts you will take pleasure in giving.  Print Shop 20 is a good all-around affordable program for calendars, t-shirts, and similar projects.  Microsoft Publisher will guide you through booklets and similar projects.
Your imagination, your computer, and your inkjet printer are three tools that you can use to create inexpensive gifts that your recipients will find meaningful long after the clothes have been given to Goodwill.

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Copyright © 2005 by Larry Wiener. All rights reserved.
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