Chances are, if you're a Frugal Gamer, you probably live the frugal lifestyle in other ways. I've always been a big fan of homemade presents and cards for special occasions. I've not only found it to be a very handy way of saving the pennies, but the reaction from the recipient is generally very positive! They can also be a cost effective way of getting your hobby 'hit' without adding more and more gaming paraphernalia to the shelves...
Here are my Golden Rules:
Make Sure You Are Reasonably Good At What You Are Doing
It's true that 'It's the thought that counts', but don't decide to use your friend's present as an excuse to try your hand at something new. If you want to paint a highly detailed Space Marine Character or similar, I'd suggest you only try it if you've done it before for yourself. You don't want your friend to be embarrassed by your dodgy paint job every time he puts it on the table.
Make Sure It Is Something The Recipient Wants
The photo on the right is one of a pair I painted for one of my friend's birthday. Now he's not a miniatures gamer, but he is a huge Doctor Who fan, so he really appreciated the gift (well, he told me he did). Not everyone would appreciate a painted model of their favourite TV character! If you're making or painting something for a fellow gamer, ensure it is something they want, and probably wouldn't make themselves. Lots of people are mainly in the hobby for the painting, so giving them a pre-painted miniature may not go down well, when they would have preferred it unpainted! The same goes for terrain and other bits and pieces, if somebody enjoys making terrain, they may not appreciate your shoddy efforts as a gift, just give them the contents of your bits box and they'd be much happier!
Set Aside Plenty of Time
The picture below (you probably saw it on a post a couple of weeks ago) is a diorama I made for my friend Jackson Pope of Reiver Games, which publishes a game called It's Alive! which I gave him a little bit of help on when he was developing the idea. It was my plan to send him the diorama as a Christmas present and I started in plenty of time. To cut a long story short, he only received the model this summer after various other projects and work got in the way! So if you plan a huge imperial fortress model for your friend's birthday, give your self plenty of time. I'd advise that you work out how long you think it will take, and then double it.
Use Your Imagination!
You don't just have to make a piece of terrain or a diorama or convert and paint a model, there's plenty of other options. If you are handy with a sewing machine, how about making a dice bag? It you have woodworking skills, you could make a box for all the paints your friend owns. You could even decorate an old folder or document case to act as a holder for their rulebooks.
There's plenty of options out there, use your imagination and let me know how you get on! Happy gaming...