Click inside to learn how do-it-yourself gift baskets can make excellent and affordable thank-you gifts.

The neighbor who watered your plants while you were out of town. The co-worker who was a huge help on that special project. The sister-in-law who helped you plan your child’s party.


There’s always someone you would like to thank, ideally without having to schedule a trip to the mall to shop for a gift.


Making personalized gift baskets can save you time and money if you put a little effort into planning them. Here are a few strategies for keeping the makings of perfect gift baskets on hand for every occasion:


Stockpile containers: Baskets, tins, fancy boxes and myriad other suitable gift basket containers are plentiful and usually inexpensive. When you spot versatile containers at a nice price, stock up on enough to give yourself a selection to choose from the next time you’re assembling a present.


Bulk up on extras: Buy ribbons, tags, pretty paper and other decorating supplies in bulk and store those items with your containers.


Pick a handful of themes: Consider half a dozen or so themes around which you can usually build gift baskets. Your friends and family members are likely to enjoy pets, coffee, gardening, the local college football team, cooking and other hobbies. Again, buy gift items that fit into these themes in bulk and keep your gift basket ingredients ready for last-minute assembly.


Find a focus: For each basket, think of building your gift around one pricey or extravagant item. Then fill in the basket with complementary, cute, less-expensive extras.


Write a note: Don’t forget a personal note to let your recipient know you were thinking of them.


For pet lovers, consider cute food bowls or pet beds for a container. Toss in gift certificates to the local groomer, pet store or doggie day care. Don’t forget to add pet-themed calendars and notebooks, gourmet pet treats, high-end leashes and collars, and high-tech pet combs and brushes.


For coffee lovers, an oversized coffee mug can make a cute small gift basket of its own. Whether you use the mug or a larger basket, think about gift cards for the local coffee shop, a collection of sample-sized packages of exotic coffees from around the world and small coffee-related cookbooks.


For gardeners, it’s easy to be creative with containers, from fun flower pots to baskets for carrying a garden’s bounty. You can add other handy items like sun hats, gloves and knee pads. Consider artsy rain gauges, garden statues and other decorations that will brighten up a flowerbed. For more practical gardeners, consider peat pots and gift certificates to popular garden-supply stores.