It’s the season of generosity. Not in the mood to buy another tchotchke? Neither are we. We’ve wrangled five holiday gift ideas that offer the joy of shared experiences and expanded horizons without the hassle of wrapping paper or waiting in post office lines. With prices ranging from the simple kindness of your heart to the sky is the limit—everyone can afford to be generous this holiday season.
#1 Give Education
Have a new baby in the family? Is your grade-schooler or grandchild growing faster than Jack’s beanstalk? Help the kiddos go to college by starting a tuition fund. Anyone can use CollegeBacker to kickstart a child’s college savings plan by inviting a community of friends and family to contribute to a tax-advantaged 529 plan. The online tuition investment service is simple to use and you can launch a giving campaign within five minutes. CollegeBacker is a SEC-registered investment advisor, so the money given will grow tax-free over time until your little genius is college-bound.
Many innovators, like Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak at Woz-U, recognize that the next generation of tech-savvy workers need affordable online educational opportunities while they are still in high school to help them decide whether to focus on a skill set, a trade, or get a college degree. A gift of a monthly subscription to Lynda or Udemy is a great way to open the doors of learning to see if a geek you love would enjoy self-paced, online learning. If they do, there is a big world of online education waiting for them to explore.
#2 Give Travel
Share the spirit of aloha or fund a visit to a much-loved auntie. Many reward travel programs make it a breeze to gift your unused reward miles. You can make a dream vacation come true for up to four recipients at one time with Delta SkyMiles, for example. If you don’t have enough miles, you can purchase more to fill the gap. Bon voyage!
Not sure how many miles you have spread over a gazillion rewards programs? Some points will go the way of the dodo if you don’t use them. TripIt’s Point Tracker is a handy resource for tracking points and miles in one spot. TripIt will monitor all of your account balances and expiration dates so you can take advantage of them before they expire. Plus, their trip planning feature makes updating and sharing vacation itineraries for groups of friends or families traveling together super simple on mobile.
#3 Give Fitness
Many of my coworkers at Quotacy are wishing that Garmin’s Vivofit Jr. Disney Minnie Mouse fitness tracker came in adult sizes! I would use the mobile app’s feature of chore management and schedule alert tools for parents to remind me of my household tasks. There are a huge variety of activity trackers on the market. Why not pair up with a buddy, get a fitness tracker that you both like, and gift the promise to work out together? A fitness buddy is a great way to stay motivated when you would rather grab a beer after work than go to the gym.
Why not consider gifting a membership to the Y? Many local YMCAs offer a free fitness tracker app that can help a family get off the couch and zumba their way to better health together. Another bonus is free child care for up to two hours for six-week to 10-year-old children while mom or dad work out. Memberships at the Y are affordable with financial assistance available and health insurance discounts pitching in to pay part of the gym membership.
#4 Give Creativity
Craftsy offers a variety of online classes for learning everything from quilting to crocheting to cake decorating priced from $10 to $100. If someone already has a full-blown hobby, but maybe not the money to keep their serial craft habit fully stoked, you can gift them all of the yarn, for example, for a super cool knitting project like Andrea Mowry’s Briochealicious Shawl. Set up a date to craft with your friend together to fuel each other’s creativity and enjoy conversation while you knit and purl.
If you wish to help your family or bestie develop an appreciation for the arts or learn how to paint, draw, act, or sing, many local museums, theaters, and other venues offer free or affordable classes. The National Endowment for the Arts is a great resource for finding your state’s arts organization. Contact them to find out which programs are available in your region. Then get out and help your budding artist bloom and explore untapped talents together.
#5 Give Peace of Mind
Anyone who has had a senior-aged family member who needed hip replacement surgery and extensive rehab after a fall in the bathroom, will appreciate that a waterproof, wearable personal safety device with fall detection and a direct connection to help is a great gift. There are many service providers out there, but not all of them have designed a medical help link that comes in hot pink! If your nana rocks stylish clothing, but is a little weak in the mobility department, consider gifting her with the SmartGo Personal Safety & Security from LifeWatch. It will give you and your family peace of mind and help your loved one to maintain her independence as she ages.
Can you give the gift of life insurance? Yes, many life insurance carriers that we carry at Quotacy will allow you to set up a recurring bank EFT to pay the premiums for another person’s policy. Grandparents do this for their adult kids to help them provide a financial security net for their grandchildren. Or, if you have cosigned your child’s college tuition loan or first home mortgage, you might consider a policy until the debt has been repaid. Term life insurance is more affordable than most people think. A 20-year term policy that covers $500,000 in debt is only $16.83 per month to insure a 30-year old, non-smoking female in excellent health. With affordable premiums like this, life insurance might be the perfect gift this holiday season.
#6 Give Kindness
If you have an older relative or friend of the family who needs assistance, give the gift of offering to do laundry, grocery shopping, gardening, or cleaning out a closet with them. The time you spend together often will mean more than any other gift you could offer. Spending time with our elders keeps a family healthy because much wisdom is shared while we do simple tasks together. Think about all the great conversations you’ve had while washing dishes at a big family gathering or while raking leaves in the fall. You can’t schedule when someone will choose to enlighten you with the wisdom gleaned from their life, but if you show up to assist them you’re likely to make their holiday season a bit brighter for sure.
It feels good to widen the circle of friendship during the holidays and keep our communities healthy. You can teach your children to practice kindness toward strangers early in life. Get a Mason jar, order a personalized superhero piggy bank on Etsy, or put a hole in a shoe box lid to stash cash for acts of kindness. Then dole out the money to each family member to spread joy as they see fit. Teaching that it’s good to save a portion of our surplus to be generous has been part of human culture for a very long time. Make it a ritual in your own family during the holiday season.
The best gifts come from your heart and knowing what the receiver needs, hopes for, or wants for themselves in their life. If you’re stumped for ideas for a special person, take time to ask them more open-ended questions and listen to what they share. Soon you’ll be coming up with more unique gift ideas by taking time to connect. Most often this is the best gift of all.
Kate Thomas is Director of Inbound Marketing at Quotacy, where she is happy helping one million people protect their loved ones with the gift of life insurance. Her writing has been featured in the art, academic, and advertising worlds. She lives in Minneapolis, where she enjoys making snow angels, meditating, and the vibrant local arts scene. Connect with her on LinkedIn.