When thoughts of holiday gift giving come to mind this year, some of you might cringe. 2009 certainly isn't the year for indulgence, with so many suffering and trying to get by on less than in years past. Here are five ideas for gifts that can be appreciated as much for their usefulness as their thoughtfulness. (The tips in Holiday Spending Or Spending Holiday? will have you singing "Joy to the World" well into the New Year.)
- The Gift of Education
The day we stop actively learning is the day we begin to grow stale. Maybe you know someone who wants to update their business or computer skills, or simply has a favorite language or hobby. Either way, there should be no shame in either giving or receiving a class at a local or online college. It's a great way to show that you care about a person's future and happiness. You can do a search of local community colleges, as most provide gift certificates for single classes of the recipient's choice.
The goal would be to show someone that continuing education can be fun. Maybe they will pick up the baton on their own and keep going with it, or update their skill set to go after a new job. The gift of education is the epitome of one that earns its keep.
- A Good Book Never Goes Out of Style
Sure, you could just pick up the new Dan Brown novel. But how about a book that inspires someone during a major turning point in their career or life? Or maybe a book that can help a loved one plan for retirement or accomplish other financial goals like estate planning or college is in order.
We should be doing this every holiday season. But this year more than most, we should embrace what the past few years have given us, if we can be industrious enough to find the silver lining in this recession. Family, friends, health – these are what truly motivate us and give us joy. Find a book that inspires someone to remember or reflect on this.
- A One-Year Membership to a Club or Service
This would fall into the most literal translation of "gifts that keep on giving" – at least for the next 12 months. There are a myriad of options out there for just about every hobby or personal taste, whether it be movies, books, beer, wine, tea, chocolate, coffee or even plantings for a budding garden. Show how well you know that special someone by giving a little gift that will have him or her appreciating you every month.
- A Charitable Contribution.
There are thousands of great programs that involve making a payment to charity on someone else's behalf. Most of them will provide you with a nice presentation you can give as a "gift," so you're not left empty-handed on gift-giving day.
- Give a Share of Stock.
What better way to inspire someone to learn more about the stock market than to give them an ownership stake in one of the world's largest companies? There are a few websites that allow you to purchase single shares in someone else's name.
While the price of this gift will depend on the actual stock price, keep in mind that you'll be paying more to get typical presentation of a framed stock certificate. The new shareholder will have all the typical rights like the ability to vote by proxy, receive dividends and get annual reports.
It's been a tough year by any account. But the truth is that giving a gift can be just as good as receiving one – and many would argue more. These gift ideas can inspire someone you love and set a positive tone for the future – one where we charge forward smarter, happier and more appreciative. (Use the tips in Avoid Overspending This Holiday Season for a bountiful Yuletide on a Scrooge-like budget.)