If you’re anything like me, heading over to the nearest shopping mall (or ordering everything on Amazon) and buying gifts for the whole family -- in one frenzied swoop -- seems like the most efficient use of time.
While it’s no doubt convenient, it’s definitely not the only gift-giving option available. Thinking outside the box and giving unusual presents is a good way to leave your loved ones with a memorable gift this holiday season.
Heck, it might even save you a little money, too! Here are a few ways to stand-out as you prepare to give gifts this year.
Giving to Family
When it comes to family, giving from the heart means more than the numbers listed on any price tag. BTW - kids don't have any concept of how much things cost. I was thinking of buying a really nice travel mug for my oldest child, but I bought him one at the Dollar Store. He totally loved it! Then, he promptly lost it at school. Good 'mom' move to get the cheap one!
The truth is, great gifts don’t have to be expensive. Tap into your family history and create a family geneology book. Or maybe assemble a family cookbook, filled with recipes everyone loves. If cooking is not your thing, consider compiling photos and creating a photo album for a family member.
If you have an older relative who could use some work around the house, make them a service coupon book. This is a great gift idea for family members that are handy with tools, or for kids to offer up free chores (complete with no complaining!).
On a larger scale, a wonderful gift idea for the entire family would be to plan a family reunion. It helps if you get the ball rolling on it and then surprise your extended family with the news. You can then get others on board to help plan, and you’ll spend time with loved ones before, during, and hopefully after, the main event.
Giving to Charity
Giving back to others is a way to share the spirit of the season. Contributing to our communities, not only makes our world a better place, but creates a place that we want to live in. If you’re tight on cash, give your time to an organization close to your heart. You can volunteer to do just about anything: drive for donation drop-offs, mentoring, letter writing, database input, or even building a house.
Since family is particularly important for many of us this time of year, consider spending some time with older adults who are homebound or in a nursing home. They might not be able to get out to see anyone, but it won’t take much for you to go and see them.
Another fantastic way to give with your time this season is to sign up for charity events after the busy season is over. Charitable organizations see a huge influx of volunteers in November and December, which is great, however those numbers tend to drop off by February. To do your part, consider signing up for an event this month, and commit to giving back throughout the year.
If you have a small business, consider donating your services. For example, a plumber could give a workshop on common plumbing problems and how to fix them, or donate their skills to a non-profit organization that could truly benefit from the help. Use what you already know to make someone else’s world brighter.
Other great ways to give are to donate your hair to programs like Wigs for Kids, or provide much needed items like socks and gloves to homeless shelters. Or food for dog shelters. There is no shortage of need, it’s just a matter of finding it and using your resources in the best way possible.
What I love about giving is that it can take different forms. Sometimes just listening to someone working though a problem is the best gift you can give. One of my favorite unusual gifting stories comes from Olympic champion and financial planner Lauryn Williams of Worth Winning.
Lauryn attended a conference where the participants were given gift cards for food. By the end of the conference she hadn’t used all the funds on her card, so she used the extra to purchase pizzas and gave them to the homeless.
At the same conference, an older gentleman complained because he also wasn’t able to use all of his card. He purchased useless snacks and items that he could take home in his briefcase.
What a testament Lauryn was! She was able to use something she didn't need to benefit others, and she did it in a creative way. She made an impact on the lives of others by considering how she could best use her gift card, not simply spend until there was nothing left.
No matter what your end of year plans are, I truly hope you’ll be able to give a gift that makes a difference. If your homemade photo album lights up Grampa’s face, you’ve made a difference. If you volunteer as a family for your favorite organization, you’ve made a difference. This holiday season, think about breaking the traditional gift giving molds and going the unusual route.
Pamela J. Horack, CFP® of Pathfinder Planning LLC provides personal financial planning advice and asset management for a simple fee to young adults and working families in North and South Carolina through group classes, one-on-one planning, and ongoing advice.