Simple Gift Ideas

Inexpensive but unique holiday presents.

Almost half of all Americans feel pressure during the holidays to spend more than they can afford. Many people are still paying off holiday debts months later.

To avoid unnecessary financial burdens that only heighten the pressures of the season, the Center for a New American Dream has produced a brochure that offers alternatives to costly holiday spending.

Gifts of Time

This is a wonderful option for just about anyone, from the person who has everything to the elderly relative who would most appreciate companionship. A particularly nice way to give the gift of time is by drawing up a voucher that includes the name of the gift giver, the recipient, and the gift to be given. Here are some gifts of time you might consider giving:


  • Homemade dinners delivered to the recipient's house

  • Special activities with your spouse. A candlelight dinner, massage, or outdoor activity

  • A month of taking out the garbage/doing the dishes

  • A monthly lunch date with an elderly relative or friend

  • Babysitting

  • Car washing

  • Organizing an outing to a zoo, museum, or park

  • Offering a particular talent such as photography, gardening, financial planning, or hairstyling


Homemade Gifts

You don't have to be an artist or exceptionally creative to make a great gift for someone. While it does take some time, it may be no more than what you might spend hunting for a parking spot at the mall.


  • Give someone a personalized basket, filled with homemade muffins, cookies, and jam.

  • Record interviews of parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles on audio tapes; you can ask them to discuss their memories of the person you plan to give the tape to or your family's history.

  • If the recipient lives far away, record a holiday message on a cassette tape.

  • Make a rope swing, painted wooden blocks, or sandbox for a child.

  • Put together a little book of favorite family recipes.

  • Make a family calendar marked with important dates, such as birthdays, anniversaries, and family gatherings; you can decorate the calendar with family photos.
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