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Alternatives to Store-Bought Christmas Presents

Yesterday I saw a holiday catalog from Hammacher-Schlemmer, which would more appropriately be titled: “Overpriced crap you will never, ever, ever need.” So today I went looking for ways to partake in the spirit of giving without wasting dollars on more made-in-China kitsch.

Gifts of Time – As a penniless kid, it was cute to give mom and dad a coupon good for some extra chores. Who would have guessed twenty years later, it’s still not a bad idea? With the frantic pace of life today, a coupon for a lunch with your folks, a few hours of slave labor, or a romantic date with your sweetie is as good as gold.

Have a skill? Can you fix somebody’s computer or car? You can make your coupons even more valuable. Just make sure you follow through on your gift of time!

Art – You have a one-up if you’re artistic. If not, buying a print or two from a local artist is a gift more meaningful than anything you can find in a store. To find a painting or two, keep your eyes peeled for open studio events, sidewalk sales, or holiday fairs.

Food – Who doesn’t love delicious home cooked food? That is, as long as it’s not a fruit cake. If you don’t want to overstuff everybody on your holiday list, consider putting together a booklet of your favorite recipes. You can even self-publish your own cookbook at Lulu.com.

Although it’s a bit harder for those of us in Northern climes, locally-grown produce also makes a great gift. No veggies growing where you live? Look around for local cheese makers or vineyards.

Charitable Gifts – If you think your recipient will appreciate it, consider donating to a charity of his or her choice in lieu of a gift. You can ask that they do the same. Got an animal-lover on your list? Check out AnimalGift.org where you can give gifts packages that will also help endangered species or animal shelters.

Photo Gifts – Have some great photos that your recipients would appreciate? Rather than simply framing them, it’s fairly cheap to get a calendar or notepad made with your favorite shots.

Experiences – If you do decide to buy gifts, consider giving experiences as gifts rather than objects. Give a massage or spa treatment, a round of golf, or the change to try skydiving or deep-sea fishing. The possibilities are endless, and the result will be far more memorable than another gadget.

Of-the-Month Clubs – One of the best gifts I ever received was a three month membership to a wine club that sent two premium wines in the mail each month. It was something I enjoyed but would never splurge on myself, and the gift came not just once but three times! From coffee to BBQ sauces to neckties, you can find something of the month for everybody on your list at AmazingClubs.com.

Do you have any other suggestions for non-traditional holiday gifts?

Published or updated on November 30, 2007

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


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