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Gifts for those who don't need 'stuff'

Focus on 'experiences' rather than unwanted items.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 2:03AM

This post comes from Abigail Perry, who blogs at I Pick Up Pennies


The holidays mean joy and giving -- and garbage. 


This isn't social commentary on commercialism -- I literally mean garbage. Think about the post-Christmas morning battlefield that was once your living-room floor: ripped, shredded wrapping paper and ribbon and toy boxes, waiting to be thrown in the trash. 


Add to that all those "they meant well" gifts, and you have, well, waste. Household garbage levels increase 25 percent in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, according to this MSNBC article

So why not give experiences instead of stuff? Experiences don’t have to be wrapped. They don’t come in big boxes with lots of rigid foam. They aren’t likely to get tossed or regifted. 


They even pass the Liz Pulliam Weston test: They aren't gift cards


And for Aunt Edna, a water buffalo
Heifer International is a group dedicated to sustainable food and income sources for the poor in many countries of the world.


For as little as $10, you can fund anything from bees to trees in the country of your choice. Admit it: Haven't you always wanted to get someone's goat?


Or suppose someone on your list needs a creative outlet. Offer to pay for and also possibly take a class with that person. Cooking would promote health and frugality. Classes in pottery, knitting, sewing, crocheting or woodworking could pay off in the ability to make gifts next year. Self-defense classes are practical and great for stress. And dance classes are just fun.


Almost everyone loves movies, and almost everyone complains about ticket prices. Such folks clearly need movie gift cards. (Sorry, Liz, but it really isn't the same thing as a Target gift card.) Or buy concession stand gift cards so they can indulge in an overpriced drink and some Dots.


Speaking of movie fans, how about a gift subscription for either Blockbuster Total Access or Netflix? You can get a one-month, unlimited-rental subscription for as little as $8.99. For the avid gamer in your life, buy a short-term subscription to GameFly, which is considerably cheaper than buying even one video game, and allows the user to try a variety of titles.


Not every subscription is a good idea. For the crafty folks on your list, all hobby magazines are not created equal. A recipient could be bored by easy projects or frustrated by difficult/expensive ones.  So don't order just any title -- get one you know the crafter wants, or one recommended by someone with similar taste and skill level. 


Rubbed the right way
Some spas and massage therapy clinics may offer holiday specials. Others offer discounts if you buy in bulk. One local spa, Eastside Oasis, offers 10 massages for $500; they normally cost $70 to $80 each. 


You could go in with a few other people and present this as a joint gift -- or divvy up the massages among yourselves.


Hard as it may be to imagine, some people don't like massages. For these folks, a gift certificate from a company like Spa Wish would be a good bet. Your recipient can then choose the participating day spa at which to redeem the certificate, whether for a sea-salt scrub or a high-end pedicure.


Giving of yourself
Maybe you, like me, are on a limited income. Or maybe you have financial goals that restrict your gift budget. Time to roll out an old favorite: Coupons!


Historically cheesy ("Good for one hug"), these can have a fun, modern spin. Suppose your coupons offered to pay for services such as:

  • "Four computer defrags and virus scans"
  • "One afternoon spent organizing your photos"
  • "One scrapbook album, fully decorated"
  • "One evening of baby sitting"
  • "One day spent cooking and freezing meals"
  • "One day of housecleaning"
  • "Complete reorganization of your kitchen cupboards"
  • "One house call to help you program your TiVo"
Or how about this: Volunteer your time for their pet projects/causes. Depending on your gift list, some limits might need to be set up front. Otherwise you, a flaming liberal, wind up manning a Republican bake sale. Ho, ho, no!

Published Dec. 19, 2007
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