Meaningful Gifts, Some With Low Price Tags
This week in the Your Money column, I created an e-mail focus group of sorts to air a proposal I had for changing the way we give gifts.
Though I didn’t ask for specific gift ideas that might be less expensive but more meaningful, several people sent them anyway. There were enough good ones that I’m passing them along here.
ORNAMENTS Some families have declared a moratorium on adults giving gifts to other adults, in an effort to put a limit on the obligations each family member feels. Another strategy might be to still give those gifts, but to pick a specific category that doesn’t require great expense and still has great meaning.
Megan Holding, a college friend of mine who lives in Needham, Mass., and her siblings exchange Christmas ornaments each year. She, her family and her three sisters’ families are no longer all together for the holiday every year. “So I love that when we put up the tree, I know I have a bit of each of them on our tree and they each have a bit of us,” she said in an e-mail message.
WEBCAMS To spur on virtual gatherings, Angela Keller, a producer at Hotwire’s Travel Ticker newsletter in San Francisco, is considering asking everyone in her family to give webcams this year. “This will allow me to watch my nieces lose their first tooth in Minneapolis, gawk at my mom’s infamous Christmas lights and decorations in Fargo, N.D., and see my brother in his cap and gown after his college graduation in Bellingham, Wash., all while sitting on my couch in San Francisco,” she wrote.
DOLLAR STORES One part of Dana Treister’s birthday routine with her young grandchildren in Chicago each year could be easily adapted to the holidays. She takes them to a giant dollar store and allows them to select one item for each year that they’ve been alive. It teaches counting, choosing, critical thinking and is fun enough that the kids go at it for over an hour each time.
HOMEMADE GIFTS Some families stipulate that any gift is fair game, as long as it’s made by hand. A great list of ideas lives on the Get Rich Slowly blog.
A TWIST ON CHARITY In my column, I suggested the possibility of families picking a particular cause to support. Some people, however, would rather keep philanthropy private or don’t wish to compromise with the small amount that they’re able to give each year.
For them, a gift card to Charity Navigator, an encyclopedic directory and ranking site, allows them to direct funds to whatever cause they wish. Or give them chits to services like Kiva, DonorsChoose or ModestNeeds, where recipients can finance a specific entrepreneur in the developing world, public school class or needy individual.
SHORTCUTS Some families pass around lists of things each member wants, which necessitates another round of e-mail messages (minus the gift recipient) to claim particular items. You can eliminate most of this by registering for gifts on sites like TheThingsIWant or MyRegistry and then sending links to others who want to buy for you.
Before large gatherings, other groups simply assign one person to give to just one other family member. This is a fine idea, though if you can make an event (and an utterly hysterical short film) out of the process, as my neighbor George Motz did, all the better.