Year of Fun Gift Box (Download Everything You Need for FREE to Create Your Present!)

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What do you do if the calendar is creeping closer and closer to Christmas, you have a passel of family members to get gifts for, and you want a Tiffany-level present on a dollar store budget?  Oh, and the gift needs to be appropriate and fun for everyone ranging from college students to young couples to families with kids, to empty-nesters, to widows?

You create something like this.

Now, I usually try to keep things frugal by baking my brains out and putting together yummy food baskets for everyone (because who doesn't love food, right?), but last year, all those pounds of butter, flour, and bags and bags of nuts were still just too pricey for us.  Rather than turn into the Grinch, I put my noggin to work and came up with an usual gift that would not only be frugal, but keep right on giving, the whole year through.

Although I'll get into all the details further down the page, the basic idea is that you'll be presenting a gift basket containing one envelope for each month of the year, along with a few other coordinating wrapped gifts and a set of "rules."

Each month, your gift-getter will open up a new envelope and then do whatever activity is described inside.

See, it's like relieving Christmas, all through the year, and this year, I'm giving YOU the gift of everything (almost) you need to make this present yourself for just about everyone on your list!

First, you'll need to print out all the materials.  Download all of them for free here.  I suggest printing them onto cardstock, cutting out the monthly activity cards and inserts and then stuffing them into a labeled envelope (business-sized works best).  You'll also need to purchase a few additional gifts, wrap and label them, then arrange everything in some sort of box or basket for a nice presentation.

There are 8 cards appropriate for everyone, 4 cards that you'll add if the gift is for a couple and 4 different cards you'll include if the gift is for an individual.  Since these were our family gifts last year, we had recipients ranging from young 20-something couples to families with kids, to empty-nesters, to widows.  I tried to come up with activities that everyone could enjoy.

Now comes the part where I go through each step in detail, so this will all make more sense in a minute.

Step One

Did you print your materials out onto cardstock yet?  If not, go do that now.  I'll wait.

You'll be cutting these cards and inserts out and stuffing them into their envelopes, but I suggest waiting to put each one together as I discuss it, just to make sure you don't get anything mixed up.

Step Two

Grab your 12 business-sized envelopes and number them 1-12.  I, of course, had to label mine in rainbow colors, but you can do yours in whatever way suits your fancy.

Or, alternately, you might just want to label each envelope with the name of a month.  If you decide on this option, you'll want to make sure you're choosing a good month for that activity (meaning, no picnics in the dead of winter - if you're up north, that is).

I opted to use the numbers, because I wanted to give the recipients even more options and by numbering them, they could either choose to go in numerical order, or randomly pick an envelope out of the box each month.

Because I put together the present in this way, I was even able to give this gift to G for us to enjoy - and even though I already knew what all of the activities were, I sealed them in their envelopes before numbering them, which meant that I got to enjoy a little bit of the surprise each month, too (whether G picked envelopes randomly or not!)

You might want everyone on your list to be doing the same things at the same times, so if that's the case, just put them all in the same order and state that each one has to be opened in order, too. 

Your envelopes are ready, but don't stuff them just yet...

Step Three

There are a few months that require additional packages to be included.  All of these things can be purchased from your local dollar store.  

You'll want to wrap them and label them with the number (or month name) of the envelope that matches.  Also, you might want to expand your version of this gift to include gift cards or other little odds and ends to go with each one.  Our budget dictated that we do this as frugally as possible, so I just went with a deck of cards (there were 2 to a pack at my dollar store), puzzles (again, from the dollar store) and mini bags of M&Ms (I got a single bag containing 12).

There are also a few activities that have insert cards to accompany them, but those can just be slipped into the envelope behind that month's instruction card.

Step Four

Assemble each month's envelope:

Activities for All

All Fun & Games

This activity has an extra gift - a deck of cards - that goes along with it.  Make sure to wrap and label this to match the envelope.

The directions on this card direct the recipient to grab their deck of cards and play.  It lists a couple of websites for different games, if they're interested.

Go ahead and get this all set up now.

Artsy Fartsy

This card instructs the recipient to choose their favorite medium to work with and then create a work of art.  It suggests looking at Etsy or Pinterest if they get stumped and need some creative ideas.

Stick this card in an envelope and label it.

Iron Chef

This activity has an insert card to go with it, so make sure to cut that out, too.

The directions card explains that the gift-getter will be doing a version of the show Chopped - given a list of ingredients (that's the insert) and then use them to make a dish.  Any addition ingredients can be used for the dish, but they just need to incorporate the listed items in some way.  

The ingredients on the list are pretty odd, but represent several different types of flavors.  You might want to come up with your own ingredient list to include, but don't be afraid to incorporate some really weird things on it, as well.

Now stuff the envelope with this card and its insert.

Dancing Queen (or King)

This one is pretty simple - it's just to spend some time dancing, but it does direct the recipient towards music found on Spotify or to YouTube to look up ballroom dancing videos to try out, if they're brave.

Put this card into its envelope now.

Library (or Bookstore)

For this one, the gift-getter(s) will either relieve their childhood with their favorite books from when they were a kid, or plan out a dream vacation.  This one can be done at either a library or a bookstore.

Stick the card in the envelope and label it.

You Oughta Be in Pictures

This activity directs the receiver to have some fun with a photo session.  It lists some websites that give different posing ideas, but your subject might just decide to spend the day taking selfies of everything they do.

Go ahead and stuff and label this envelope now.

YouTube Movie Surprise Night

This activity has an insert with specific YouTube videos to visit and watch.

The directions direct your gift-getter to watch a few fun, specific videos (listed on the insert) and then make some of their own discoveries (which they can share with you).

Cut out the card and matching insert and put those in the envelope.

Puzzle Challenge

This is another activity that has an extra gift - a jigsaw puzzle - that goes along with it.

The directions simply say to put together the puzzle you wrapped up (they'll just look for the label that matches the envelope) and included in the box.

Wrap and label your puzzle and envelope, then tuck in the card.

Additional Activities for Individuals

All Tangled Up

This activity introduces your recipient to the fun of Zentangle doodling.  The information card lists some sites to explain the phenomenon and introduce some of the classic tangles.

Seal the card in your labeled envelope now.

Let's Get Physical

This card prompts the gift-getter to go do something physical - it could be anything from a walk to a team sport to an exercise video.

Put the directions in the envelope and label it.

Being Crafty

This activity is similar to the art one, but focuses on crafts.  It again suggests consulting Etsy or Pinterest for ideas, as well as to make something for themselves or for a friend (like maybe you!)

Put the card in the envelope and give it a label.

Ice Cream Creations

This activity tells your gift-getter to build their own ice cream creation at home - and provides a couple of websites listing all sorts of creative ideas for frozen treats.

Stick it in your labeled envelope now.

Additional Activities for Couples

Dinner Out on a Dime

This activity challenges the couple to eat out spending only $10 total.  It gives a few ideas for ways to do this.

Go ahead and put this card in its labeled envelope.

M&M Bowling

This activity has insert, so don't forget to cut it out.

It also has an extra gift - a mini bag of M&Ms - that goes along with it.

This diversion is a game of bowling with a twist - couples must bowl in the style determined by what color M&M they pull before each turn (these rules are listed on the insert and you'll include the bag of M&Ms).

Make sure you've put the insert in the envelope and wrapped and labeled your matching bag of M&Ms.

Mall Scavenger Hunt

Another activity that has an insert - a list of things to find.

This game has options - the couple can either check items off the list together, or split up and make it a competition - with the loser buying the winner a treat from the food court!   That's the option George chose and let me tell you, it really brought out his competitive spirit!  Each team will take a photo of the item before they check it off, which provides plenty of laughs long after the game is done!

Put the card and the insert in its envelope.

Picnic in the Park

You'll want to make a note on the outside of this envelope that it should be done when it's pleasant weather to be outside.

And I know not everyone will be able to use the Florida state parks link I've listed on this card, but since I'm sure each state has a similar site, I left it on the card.

After the food is gone, the couple has a choice to make:  to go bird watching (a link to birds is included) or play on the playground together.

Put the directions card into the envelope and label it, not forgetting the good weather note.

Step Five - Assemble Your Gift Box

In the printable pack that you've downloaded, you'll find a large card with the title and graphic for this post (see top of this page for example) to use as a label for your box or basket.  I actually glued mine down onto a piece of construction paper first, just to add some color and give it a little extra flair.

You'll also notice that the other half of that printed sheet is labeled "Rules."  This part, however, is just for you to use as a guide.  You might want to alter the rules a bit from how I have them - or, you might want to keep them exactly the same, but you'll need to type up your own list in order to include your own name, email address, etc.

Whatever you decide, you'll want to include some sort of sheet with rules so that the recipients of your present know just what this gift is all about and how it works.

Here's a rundown of each rule on my sheet:

1.  One activity per month, no more, no less.  Even if you're busy.

Obviously you don't want this gift to be a burden to anyone, so it's not like you have to call them up and make sure they're not doing more than one a month, but the idea behind this rule is that it forces the gift-getter to spread out all the activities over the course of the year.  Most people will get behind, but that's okay, too - it really doesn't matter if it takes one year, two, or even three to get through every activity with this gift.  The main idea is to have something fun (and frugal) to anticipate doing each month, especially for those times when the social calendar is slow.

2.  You can do the activities in any order, but no peeking.  Once you open an envelope, you must do that activity. I've labeled any envelopes that are for something best done in good weather to be outside.

Again, you can decide to do things differently.  You might have specific months you think certain things should be done, or you want everyone receiving this gift to be doing the same things at the same time, so you label everything in the same order and require the recipient to proceed from 1 to 12.  We wanted our family to have a little more variety, so we left that choice up to them.  Some went in numerical order and some chose randomly, like G and I did.

3.  You must report back. This could be posting a photo to FB (tag me), emailing a photo (email address here), or just sending a quick message or text sharing what you did that month and how it went.

This was just a fun thing to add in for my benefit - it was neat for me to see what everyone was doing each month and after we've all finished everything up, I plan to share all the photos in an album on Facebook so that everyone can have some laughs while seeing what everyone else was up to each month.  Since G and I have dumb phones (what we call our old-school, only-advanced-enough-to-text phones), I couldn't add Instagram onto this list, but you probably can, so that would be another fun way for your gift-getters to share their photos.

This is a photo of our box, with the label tucked inside and all the envelopes and add-ons randomly shoved in.  I either forgot to take a photo of the completed box last Christmas or can't find it in my over-burdened computer, but this gives you the idea.  

I got these boxes at my dollar store and was able to arrange all the stuff inside to make it look a little fancier than this.  The gift label ("Year of Fun") was situated at the front of the box and the entire thing was wrapped in cellophane (also from the dollar store) and tied off with some fun ribbon.  I'm sure if you're fancier than I am, you could easily make this look even better, but it worked for us and everyone was still really excited to get it.

Oh, and don't just think this gift can only be given at Christmas - it would also make the perfect wedding gift, anniversary present, or a special birthday treat.

So there you have it.  All of your Christmas planning taken care of, in just one swoop.  All that's left is assembling everything, and you'll have plenty of time to do that each night while binge-watching the holiday movies I share in my Celebrating the Season series here.  You might even have time left over to bake your brains out.

And then gobble up all those treats yourself!

Do you have people on your gift list who would love A Year of Fun?  I bet you do, and I'd love to hear all about it!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

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