Gifts With Lasting Effects | Alternative Gift Ideas

Giving an alternative gift from the heartBuying gifts for family and friends throughout the year is something many people enjoy doing. However, despite choosing gifts carefully, happiness from tangible gifts rarely lasts.   

Rather than buying traditional gifts or resorting to cash or gift cards, many families have started giving alternative gifts for holidays, birthdays and special times throughout the year. 

List of Alternative Gift Ideas 

Consider these alternative gift ideas as you plan your gifts for loved ones:

1.  Knock a Chore Off Someone’s To-Do List

Ask your loved ones what they would like help with. Most families are so busy these days and find it hard to get things done around the house. Many hands make for light work, so spend some time with your own family by helping another family or loved one. Involve the kids and have some fun.

As you consider your gift, look to help with routine chores, decorating for the holidays, fixing up a room, doing yard work, or sorting the garage and hauling the extra stuff away. Give them a homemade gift certificate that they can redeem for the help!

2.  Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP)

Start a Registered Education Savings Plan for the children in your extended family, or contribute to an existing one, and help your family save for education costs. Choices for post-secondary education are broader than ever before, so this gift will have significant meaning when the children face decisions about post-secondary education.

The added bonus with this gift are the government programs to help families save, including the 20% top up on the first $2,500 contributed each calendar year! Ask your bank or credit union for more information 

3.  Give a Group Gift

Some people’s biggest wishes cost more than what most family or friends want to spend on a gift. Consider organizing a group gift for the teens or young adults on your list. If each person chips in what they can afford to spend, the smaller amounts will either add up to the cost of the gift, or to a significant contribution towards the item. Think of it as the financial equivalent of a group hug! 

4.  Canada Savings Bonds and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TSFA)

Buy a Canada Savings Bond every year for your children or grandchildren, or provide a cheque for them to deposit to their Tax Free Savings Account. Young people don't fully realize how expensive life can get as they get older, so this is a gift that truly keeps giving.

5.  Make a Donation or Volunteer

Donate money to someone's favourite charity in their name or spend time volunteering there with them.

6.  Buy a Membership

Buy a membership to someone's local gym, bulk store or organization of their choice. Buy an annual family membership to their favourite museum, science centre, aquarium or art gallery. Either ask them what they need or surprise them with something they wouldn't necessarily buy themselves.

7.  Take It Online with Craigslist, Kijiji, eBay, Etsy or Other Similar Websites

Make some room and generate some cash by selling what you don’t need or things you’ve made. Use the money you earn to buy gifts for others.

Most people don’t think to buy used items for gift-giving purposes, but with some prior discussion, it might be an idea worth considering.

8.  Help by Giving a Service

Purchase services like home or yard cleaning, or give a homemade gift certificate for free babysitting, an oil change, or cooking lessons. For older family members consider giving them the gift of your time. Take them along on an outing, spend time with them at home, or help them with something they can't do on their own.

9.  Make a Gift of Your Hobby or Craft Projects

Whether you enjoy canning, photography, sewing, woodworking or other craft, see what you already have made that you could gift to a loved one. You've already made the item, so wrap it and rather than keeping it for yourself, prepare it as a gift.

Wrapping and Giving an Alternative Gift

To still have something you can wrap, consider a small gift, like a book, CD or iTunes gift card, and enclose a note about your alternative gift with the card.

No matter what you choose to do, the gift still needs to fit your budget. While it may be easier to walk into a store and purchase a gift, coming up with creative alternatives will extend your thoughtfulness long after the special day.