5 Alternative Holiday Gift Ideas

Some of the most thoughtful gifts also work well if you’re planning last-minute.

The holidays are right around the corner, and if you’ve yet to cross some people off your list, don’t panic. Last-minute gift giving doesn’t always have to mean scrambling to the shopping mall and fighting the crowds. In fact, some of the most thoughtful gifts can also be the ones that don’t require any shopping at all!

Professional services

Think about how your skills can truly help someone in your life. For example, if you’re a web designer, is someone close to you in need of a new website for their company? Offering your professional services can be far more meaningful to someone than something you could buy them at at the mall.

Lend a helping hand

Lending a helping hand to someone can be so much better than just buying them something. For instance, you could offer to help someone clean or move if they’re feeling frazzled, or you could offer other favors that would be much appreciated, such as babysitting. You can even offer to bring a home-cooked meal to a friend or family member who may have been extremely busy and overwhelmed lately. There are so many ways to help out — just be creative!

College expenses

There’s no denying that college is expensive — in fact, The College Board recently reported that the average budget for an in-state public college for one academic year averaged $24,610, and averaged $49,320 for the academic year at a private school. With no end to these cost increases in sight, why not give your favorite future college student the gift of a brighter future?

For some kids, it may be the type of gift they don’t truly appreciate until they’re older, but it’s something that they certainly will be grateful for if they pursue higher education someday. (And you can bet that their parents will appreciate it today!) One of the most popular ways to help is to set up or contribute to a 529 plan, a college savings vehicle that has tax advantages similar to a Roth IRA.

It’s never too late to help a loved one with college expenses, even if that person already started. If footing the tuition bill is a bit out of your price range, there are other gift ideas that the college student in your life will greatly appreciate, such as helping pay for the required textbooks for an upcoming semester.

Make something

The idea might seem a little cheesy at first, but handmade gifts can be extremely thoughtful, and there’s no limit to what you can create. Even if you’re not exactly the crafty type, there are plenty of online tutorials (and fun ideas on Pinterest) that can give you inspiration to create something truly unique.

For clues to making an exceptionally special gift, think carefully about the people you’re getting gifts for and any small problems they’ve faced throughout the year. One year, for instance, I remember my dad complaining that he had no idea where all of his family photos were from his childhood and that he had so many albums scattered around his house. With my mom’s help, I was able to find every single album, scan all the photos, and put them on a digital picture frame — even though I was a little short on time and Christmas was just days away. It was a time-consuming project and, sure, it may have been easier for me to just pick up something quickly and call it a day. But where’s the thought in that?

Family vacation

A vacation is one gift that the entire family can enjoy. Earlier this month, we published an article that explores the idea of giving up traditional gift giving and instead, using that money towards a trip. If everyone in your family mutually agrees to not exchange gifts this year, you can all decide to use that cash for a last-minute holiday trip.

Remember, opting for an alternative holiday gift doesn’t always have to mean making a grand gesture. Forget about what you’re spending (if anything at all) and remember that it’s the thought that counts. Big or small, aim to give your loved ones thoughtful gifts that they’ll cherish for years to come.

You might also like:
Holiday Gifts That Give Back
An Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Holidays
The Real Reason the Holidays Are So Pricey (It’s Not the Gifts)