Gifts are part of almost every winter holiday tradition. Everyone likes to give and receive gifts that are carefully chosen. Too often, we give and receive gifts which are inappropriate, useless or just poorly thought out. But, isn’t it the thought that counts?

Why do we think we can push our way into the crowded stores when we haven’t a clue what we are looking for? Perhaps we feel that the perfect gift is some kind of magic thing that just happens.

How can we, in the rush of the season, choose gifts that are helpful, meaningful and that don’t break our budget?

Give the gift of you. 

The best gift is often the gift of your time. One year my mother-in-law took my sons on a Christmas vacation. It was more expensive than a lot of gifts, but it will also be remembered forever — and no one has to put it away or clean it. You might choose tickets to a concert, a sporting event, movies or a play and then go together. You can also make a coupon book. Use your imagination. Coupons for babysitting are perfect in homes with young children. Coupons for hugs are welcome everywhere! Or, why not write a letter or poem to a special person to let them know just how special they are to you? You don’t have to be Shakespeare to put words together that describe your feelings. Sometimes it’s a simple note from the heart that is most precious.

Give the gift of food.
Food is another thoughtful gift that will be appreciated and won’t contribute to the after-holiday clutter. Restaurant gift certificates are popular. Parents of young children often can’t afford to pay for dinner, tickets to an event and babysitting. Covering the meal might get them out of the house. And, of course, you can cook for someone. One advantage of cooking ahead and freezing is that you always have a meal in the freezer that you could share with someone else. Or, include all the ingredients for a favorite dish, the recipe and any special utensils in a pan or baking dish. Baked goodies are always a popular gift.

Give a gift of remembrance. 

Gifts that help us to remember this holiday — and the people we are sharing it with — don’t have to be big and extravagent to be appreciated. Special ornaments make good gifts, and you don’t have to choose the most expensive. If you can sign and date the back of the ornament with a sharp-tipped permanent marker it will bring up happy memories every year. Or, you can make a donation in someone’s honor. A gift that keeps on giving. It could be to their favorite charity, a donation to a zoo, where they could be a “foster parent” to an animal they can visit and enjoy. You can even plant a tree for your loved one.

Give the gift of organization. 

Choose a gift that will help your children (or your friends’ kids) to keep their rooms neat, rather than adding to the clutter. When we noticed that our children were spending more time tripping over their toys than playing with them, we made a suggestion — CONTAINERS! Each child now has an underbed storage box for a few of their favorite things.

Give the gift of memories. 

Whether Christmas is spent watching children open gifts or watching the ocean on a tropical vacation, the gift of a camera — even a nice disposable one — can really come in handy. Make sure there is enough film and fresh batteries.

Give the gift of communication. 

Want to hear from your family members who live far away? A pre-paid phone card makes a great gift. Available everywhere, these don’t require a special shopping trip and slip easily into a card or letter.

Many of these gifts can be done at the very last minute — even on Christmas Eve. Most of them are a combination of your imagination and items you may already have around the house. Take a good look at the people you are giving to and think about what they really want and enjoy. You will find the best gifts often don’t come from the mall!

Source: iVillage, By: Bonnie Rice 

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