Isn’t it exciting when you find the perfect gift for someone, something that reflects their interests and needs and is also maybe a bit unexpected or creative? I keep a notebook of gift ideas that occur to me throughout the year—a restaurant someone raved about (I might get him a gift certificate for dinner there), a book someone mentioned enjoying (I might get her another book by the same author), a favorite color (useful when choosing a scarf). You get the idea! Meaningful gifts take a little forethought.
Most of the time, I’m able to be thoughtful about gifting. I buy gifts ahead of time, consulting my notebook, thinking about what the recipient might especially like. And I try to do the same for the holidays. But it doesn’t always work. I don’t always have every gift by Thanksgiving (my goal so I can totally revel in the weeks leading up to Xmas), and I don’t always have good ideas for meaningful gifts. (Some people—especially guys—are just hard for me to find the perfect gift for.) Sometimes I find myself just wanting to finish up that gift list, already! (You know that feeling of “oh, I have to get something, anything, for Uncle George so I can cross him off my list!)
Keeping the following options in mind, though, helps me avoid that kind of obligatory gift giving and instead offer gifts that provide something worth keeping, whether it’s a tangible item, a skill, or a memory.
For meaningful gifts, consider choosing items that:
Share your talents.
Everyone (well, everyone that I gift) loves a handmade gift. Or homemade food. What other talents can you share? If you play an instrument, maybe you can gift a little concert to your grandmother and her friends at the nursing home. If you have a green thumb, why not gift a morning of repotting and tending houseplants for your brother with a brown thumb? One Xmas, I gifted a landscaping plan with a promise to plant it in the spring. Or maybe you can take sharing your talents a step further by offering lessons—teach a friend to bake bread, for example, or teach her to do her own taxes.
Support the local economy.
Shopping online is super easy. I have to admit, it beats running to twenty stores looking for the right snow gloves. (I remember when that was the only option!) But buying from local shops is an important way to support your community. If you’re lucky enough to have local shops that offer items made by local artists and craftspersons, take advantage of it! Include the gift-maker’s card, if they have one, or a little note about how and where the item was made.
Support a sustainable lifestyle.
It’s fun to give gifts that promote your ideology without being preachy. Functional gifts are almost always appreciated, so consider choosing something that will be useful and environmentally friendly, too. Fabric shopping bags, cloth napkins, and bird houses often make their way to my gift lists. You might tuck in a note about Zero Waste (or some such), if you think the recipient might appreciate it.
Provide an experience.
Tickets to a play, concert, or movie are always fun. Think a little further afield, too. How about paying for an afternoon on a climbing wall for an aspiring climber or a Tai Chi class for a budding martial artist? Offer to take a niece or nephew on a train ride, ice skating, or to a new playground. Take your dad on a canoe trip, or give your sister a membership to the local yoga studio.
Gifts that provide for someone beyond the recipient do double duty! You can give a donation in someone’s name, or you can buy a product that benefits a charity or cause with each purchase.
•Over at Just a Girl and her Blog, Abby shares a blogpost on “Where to find gifts that give back.”
•Real Simple has a similar list of “21 Gifts that give back, so you can gift twice the joy.”
•Make Change offers “50 Great gifts that give back!”
There are lots more options online; just google “Gifts that give back.”
I love hearing stellar gift ideas! Please share your favorites (given or received)!
You might also like: Recycling during the holidays—Don’t toss your commitment with all the wrappings!