We may have recently gotten some good news about the unemployment rate, but that doesn't change the fact that many long-term unemployed and under-employed individuals will be struggling to get through yet another holiday season. Whether you know and want to help individuals in your family who match this description, or are simply searching for a way to make the holidays more meaningful for you and your wallet, consider some of these valuable, practical and helpful gift ideas.
TUTORIAL: Credit And Debt Management
University Gift Certificates
How would you like to give the college student in your life the gift of less student loan debt? To do so, check online to see if his or her university offers gift certificates that can be applied to class credit hours. You may also be able to buy a gift certificate to the school's book store. Some colleges even have professional training programs that those already in the workforce can take to make them even more valuable to their industries. Gift certificates for these courses can help friends and family members who are, and aren't, employed. (For related reading, see 7 Unique And Inexpensive Gifts For The Holidays.)
Roadside assistance is an amazing help when you lock your keys in your car, get a flat tire, have a dead battery or run out of gas. But at $80 or more per year it's not a priority for many families. Buying someone a membership as a gift can pave the way to help him or her out of a tough spot in the future. You may even be able to get the membership at a discount if you already have one for yourself.
Donating to your friends' or family members' favorite charities can be an extremely meaningful way to allocate funds intended for gifts. Not only will the charitable donation make a huge difference to your loved one's charity, it can alleviate some of the guilt he or she may feel if his or her financial situation has prevented him or her from donating as much in recent years as usual. (To learn more about charitable donations, read Deducting Your Donations.)
Grocery Gift Certificates
Everyone needs groceries, but sometimes it can be extremely difficult to afford them. Grocery store gift certificates can save financially secure family members money and can make life a lot easier for those who are struggling financially.
Drug Store Certificates
It's no secret that medication costs are high and if you have a friend or family member who has a high deductible plan or no health insurance, your gift certificate can give him or her an extra month of life-saving medication. If your family members don't need prescription medications, the drug store will have many of their other monthly health care and personal care needs.
One of the hardest parts about struggling financially is that it feels as though you never get a break from your struggles. While it may not be practical, a restaurant or fast food gift certificate for the person's favorite joint can give them the gift of relaxation for a few hours.
Paper savings bonds are available in increments as low as $25, but when they mature they are worth twice as much as you purchase them for. It's difficult to think of another gift that is guaranteed to double in value. If your relative or friends should need to access the value of the savings bond before maturity, they may face some penalties and loss of interest. (To learn more about savings bonds, read Savings Bonds For Income And Safety.)
Cell Phone Gift Certificates
Cell phones have become the one technological device taken for granted, but when the bill comes each month, play time is over. Many cell phone service providers offer gift certificates that can be used on phones and accessories, and can be put toward the payment of cell phone bills.
VISA/MasterCard Gift Cards
To help a friend or family member pay bills and other expenses, a VISA/ MasterCard gift certificate is a great option. This allows the recipient the power to pick and choose what's most important to him or her.
The Bottom Line
This year, instead of buying another crock pot, tie, or perfume set for your friends or loved ones, consider buying a gift that's practical and really impacts the recipient's life.