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.
  • Frame one of your best photographs.
  • Put together a photo album, scrapbook, or framed collage containing pictures and mementos.

  • Gifts of Experience

    Some gifts are not tangible but are a chance for the recipient to try something new. This gift can provide exciting challenges, learning opportunities, and time to spend together.

    • Sign them up for lessons in a sport, a language, or a musical instrument.

  • Offer to teach them a skill you possess, such as canning tomatoes, swing dancing, knitting, building furniture, or doing the butterfly stroke.

  • Gifts to Charity

    The dominant holiday culture encourages everyone to focus on getting stuff, for our kids and us. But many religious traditions instruct that deep joy and transcendence come from a relationship with the divine and focus on the needs of others. This year, consider more gifts of charity that touch the hearts and lives of people who are less privileged.

    • Donate to a cause in the name of a family member.

  • Sponsor a child refugee, support a homeless shelter, or protect an acre of rainforest.
  • Call your local social services agency and anonymously give food, clothing, and money to a particular family in need. Some families make gifts to charities and then present family members with a coupon or card indicating the gift was made in their name.
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