5 Cheap and Fun Holiday Gifts With Meaning

With the end of the world upon us*, 2012 more than ever calls for creative gift giving that expresses yourself (as the giver) and has meaning for your gift recipients. Even if we’re wired to want stuff, those little things seem to have more staying power in appreciation, unless that little thing is a Mini.

*not actually ending per scientists and the government and everyone else.

The good news is gifts with meaning tend to be cheap, so take a look at some ideas of how you might make 2012’s holiday season memorable on a dime:

1. Give gratitude (free)

Expressing and feeling gratitude can lead to significant happiness. Write someone you really love and appreciate a little poem, a letter. Do something beyond the e-card, Facebook post, or phone call. Think about what they care about, maybe send them a little something and say “I was thinking of you.” It’s amazing what little words like that can do.

Think of all the therapy happiness saves … which you can spend on lavish gifts next year if your meaningful gift idea “backfires.”

2. Give a staycation “trip for two” on local transportation (cheap)

Is there a train or ferry in your area? In the San Francisco bay area some families go on trips from the BART subway to a train and around the bay, visiting multiple cities all by public transportation. Ironically that can get more expensive than driving, but you see world from a new perspective and probably stop places you wouldn’t otherwise. This photo was on the ferry from San Francisco to Oakland. On either Saturday or Sunday mornings you’d have a farmers market on either side of the bay.

ferry ride on the san francisco bay
Give a ferry ride or other local adventure

3. Give an interactive experience that keeps giving

Immersive play puts kids and adults into a state of flow which is why kids doing crafts get so happy! So many cool kits are out there. I gave my niece a sugar skull decorating kit for her birthday which she loved. Get some fabric paint, curtains or removable wall paper and let kids decorate their own rooms. Buy a food kit or put one together yourself.

If you’re looking for an excuse to cook I always loved the idea of a hot chocolate mix, you make in  bottle. (Of course in theory it’s a pain in the ass as you’d have to transfer the mix to something else to mix it up, but it sure looks good!)

4. Give a Moleskine Smart Notebook with Evernote

After we discover the world has, in fact, not ended, this notebook will be a fun way for your recipient to start journaling and maybe even sketching. I love this Moleskine as you can shoot a photo with the Evernote app and Evernote will digitize the text and of course save any drawings. It combines the best of paper journals with the assurance everything is backed up and findable.

digitize handwritten notes
Ce n’est pas le Moleskine. The Moleskines are that good old black covered notebook you love.

 5. Give it a rest! Or give him or her a rest.

Rather than give cash or gift cards, give a day pass where you’ll do whatever your friend or loved one wants, from chores to baby sitting to … well you can use your imagination. You’re giving the gift of happiness, peace, time, so your gift recipient can get out of the day to day and into a space where he or she can look at big picture goals for the new year. (Ironically searching for “give a favor” on Google only produces results related to buying favors.)

texas bbq with a smoker
Make your friend’s favorite dinner

What I gave: a donation in honor of the recipient

I donated to Guidedogs for the Blind, in honor of the kids I was “giving” the gift to. They love animals and they love to help people. Plus they have had a few labrador retrievers. I somehow knew that while the thrill would wear off quickly, compared to a toy, this gift would feel good for everyone.

I love guide dogs for the blind