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Alternative giving

Many of us have learned to expect things from our friends and families as a demonstration of their love and appreciation for us, but why? How often are the material gifts we get things that we really need or even want? This holiday season, consider alternatives to traditional gift giving that will strengthen your relationships, leave more money in your pocket and help those who are truly in need.

Give the gift of memorable moments. Bake cookies with your little cousins. Play board games with your aunts and uncles. Sit down and share stories with your parents. Volunteer at a food shelter with your friends. Happy holiday memories like those will last longer than any object could.

Give meaningful homemade gifts. Put all of your grandma’s favorite recipes into a cookbook for her and her children. Collect your favorite pictures of you and your dad into an album for him. Make your friend a CD of all of your favorite songs to sing together. Decorate a plain notebook into a journal for a younger cousin or sibling. Be creative and make sure your homemade gifts are things that your loved ones will actually appreciate and use.

Give experience gifts. Rather than material gifts that will lie around and clutter your loved ones’ houses, give fun things to do. If your uncle has recently taken up cooking, get him a certificate for a cooking class. Give your sister a certificate for a 30-minute massage. If your parents love to bowl, buy them a gift certificate to the local bowling alley. If you don’t have a lot of cash to spare, you can give homemade certificates for a massage, night of babysitting or other service from you. Your loved ones will appreciate doing the activities that you’ve given them.

Give charity gifts. The average American spends somewhere around $500 to $1000 each year on Christmas presents, meaning that a family with two adults spends about $1500 on gifts. That is slightly more than the average American family gives to charity over the course of an entire year. Why not cut back on the gift-buying and give more to charity? Consider donating to friends’ and family members’ favorite charities in their names rather than buying material things that have little meaning and aren’t likely to be of much use.

Whatever sort of gifts you decide to give this year, remember that holidays shouldn’t be about how much money you spend or how many things you get. There are so many ways to make a holiday meaningful without emptying your wallet and contributing to an endless cycle of materialism. Be creative, and find a way that works for you.

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