Holiday Gift Giving Alternatives - Going Off the Beaten Trail

Each year the holiday season creeps up on us without warning, and we're left scrambling to find gifts for friends and family. You want to select gifts that show your appreciation and understanding of the people you are giving them to. It’s possible to select just the right present to show your consideration, whether you are on a tight budget, looking for a gift that's out of the ordinary, or just an extra little something to stuff stockings with. With a little thought and imagination you can get everyone on your list a gift which will be enjoyed long after the holiday season has passed.

Do-It-Yourself Gifts

Homemade gift-giving is a great way to save money, while at the same time giving a heart-felt, one-of-a-kind gift. This doesn’t necessarily mean making presents completely from scratch, but combining a little time and creativity with available materials to create inexpensive gifts that are perfect for just about anyone.
Not all "handmade" gifts are as inexpensive and easy to make as they might initially seem. Any gift you make yourself will take planning, work, and time to make. In some cases it may end up costing just as much money as going out and purchasing a gift from a store. Plan ahead so all the ideas below can be accomplished inexpensively and in fairly short amounts of time.

Home-Baked Goods - Giving a platter of your own home-baked goods can be a welcome holiday gift. Plan how much you are going to bake for how many people, and when you will be giving your baked goods away. You want your cookies and goodies to be fresh when the time comes, so bake no more than a few days ahead of time. If you are planning on giving many people cookie platters, you can make batches in bulk to save time.

Make a few different flavors for variation. Add some brownies to the mix. Look online or in a cookbook for some original cookie and brownie recipes. Dress up brownies with frosting and sprinkles. Unique goodies will really give your homemade gift a gourmet feel.
The trick to making this idea special is in the presentation. You can buy inexpensive yet attractive, reusable tins, plates and platters from local discount stores. Wrap each brownie up individually and separate cookies into bags by flavor. Label the flavor of each goody with a tag, for a professional finish. Sprinkle some holiday-wrapped chocolates into the mixture. Wrap some color-tinted cellophane around the whole creation, and seal it up with a nice display of ribbon.
TIP: If you are really in a rush or don’t have the baking skills, you can always purchase ready-to-bake cookie dough and brownie mix from the supermarket.

Candy Mugs - A mug filled with candy has become a common holiday gift, and is a nice idea for acquaintances. They are easy to throw together, and several can be made at once. Add something extra to an old idea, Find inexpensive, over-sized, soup mugs at a discount store. Fill them up not only with wrapped holiday chocolates and candies, but also packets of flavored tea, coffee and hot chocolate for a nice surprise. Wrap the whole thing up in plastic with a ribbon for a lovely presentation.

Crafts and Photos - Spice up plain items like journals and sketch-books. Buy them on sale from an art supply or discount store, and decorate the covers yourself to make them personalized and special. Dress up the cover by gluing on tissue paper, ribbons, buttons, rhinestones, glitter, felt, dried flowers, etc. Finish it off by writing a thoughtful note inside the cover.
Photos are always appreciated by family members, particularly relatives you only get to see around the holidays. You can find nice photo frames for fairly low prices and enlarge photos to fit the frame. Print copies of some of your favorite family photos from the past year and put them together in a mini-photo album. Make scrapbooks with photos, adding personal touches with notes and memories. This will take more time and thought, but given to a parent, grandparent, or good friend will be something treasured forever.

If you have young children, you can even get them into the spirit of gift-giving early while nourishing their creativity. Have your kids frame their own sketches and paintings, or buy inexpensive Christmas ornament globes and have your kids paint them. Your relatives will adore these gifts.

Hand out your own "IOU" coupon books or cards, offering such services as cooking a loved one dinner, dessert, or coffee, washing their car, cleaning a room, mowing the lawn, baby-sitting, snow shoveling, etc.

Make personalized mix tapes and CDs for friends and family. This can be a creative, fun gift that also allows you to share a bit of yourself.

Untraditional Gifts For The Person Who Has Everything

Sometimes want to find something special and out of the ordinary for someone who seems to already have everything they need. When you’re selecting a gift, think of what a person already has; do they really need this gift? Here are some ideas that capture the generosity and reflection of the season, and will be remembered and enjoyed by the recipient for a long time to come.

Charitable Gift-Giving - You can honor a loved one, and make your gift really count, by donating money to a cause in their name. Search online for humanitarian and environmental organizations that you know a certain person supports, or a cause they are interested in. Most organizations have certain gifts available that you can donate in another person's name.
For example, give a family in a third-world country a bed, donate clothes to homeless children, support a child's education, plant a tree in someone's name, etc. These gifts can range as low as $15 to even hundreds or thousands of dollars. Your friend will receive a note of recognition, and very often, updates on the status of the cause they have helped to support.
You can also purchase someone a membership to an organization. This is frequently available for environmental organizations such as WWF and Sierra Club. Membership often comes with additional gifts and monthly newsletters or magazines.

Subscriptions and Memberships - Magazine subscriptions are ideal for family members, and show your thoughtfulness. Think about what your loved one is interested in and chances are there will be a magazine perfect for them, whether it be film, music, fashion, art, gardening, home improvement, children's interests, science, photography, nature, entertainment, etc. This is a gift that can be enjoyed all year long.

Memberships to museums and zoos are perfects gifts for families. They also encourage them to spend time together. Consider a membership to a local gym for a fitness enthusiast. Encouraging activity and intellectual stimulation is a great way to show you care.

Give Your Time - Show family members and friends that you want to spend time with them. This can be much more rewarding gift than a material item. Instead of a gift certificate for them to go out and buy something, make your own gift certificate to arrange a "date" to spend time with a loved one. Offer to take someone out to dinner, for dessert and coffee, or out to the movies. This will give you a great chance to catch up with someone and show them how much you enjoy spending time with them.

Stocking Stuffers

Filling stockings can put the perfect finishing touch on Christmas morning. Stockings aren't just for the young. They are a great addition for all ages and can be an ideal way to give a few extra things to someone. Give stocking stuffers that a person can actually use, and not just filler. Give thought to the person, what they like and can really use, to put together an extra handy and thoughtful stocking gift.

Good for Winter

  • Gloves - There are many quality designs to capture the personality of the wearer
  • Socks - Make them special by getting soft, fuzzy socks or slipper socks
  • Ice-Scrapers for Cars - everyone can use an extra one for icy mornings
  • Lotion - therapeutic lotion for the body, especially useful during the winter.
  • Lip balm – Cold, dry winters chap lips
  • Hot Drinks- Unique sets of flavored tea bags, coffee mix and hot chocolate
  • Candy - What stocking would be complete without chocolate bells and candy canes?

Practical Extras

  • Batteries - For all the electronic gadgets people have received
  • Head Phones – For mp3 players and smart phones
  • Stamps and Stationary – For thank you notes and letters
  • Change Purses and Wallets –Find something to match the personality
  • Toothbrushes – There are many decorative designs
  • Travel-Size Toiletries – Great for holiday visitors
  • Calendar/Address and Date Books – The New Year is just around the corner
  • Prepaid Phone Cards – Make holiday calling easier
  • Scratch-Off Lottery Tickets – Fun, and they could be the biggest gift of all

Special Interest Supplies

  • Art supplies and drawing pads
  • Journals and small notebooks
  • Portable alarm clock for travel
  • Calculator
  • Small flashlights book and travel lights
  • Wine opener
  • Screwdriver sets and handy tools
  • Travel size sewing kit
  • Eye glass repair kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Inexpensive jewelry, necklaces, and hair accessories
  • Compass