Many people agree to no-gift-giving as a way to reduce stress and spending during the holidays. While this may “fit the bill” financially, it doesn’t necessarily leave one feeling warm and fuzzy. Giving is an important aspect of the season, after all. But don’t lose heart. The best presents are the ones that involve your presence, and those don’t have to break the bank. To give the best gifts you possibly ever have, and to keep your spending in check, let’s do something new this year.

Start your shopping as you normally would—make a list of the people you want to acknowledge this holiday. Take time to think of what you know about each person. Don’t rush through this part; be present in your thinking. What do they like? What do they need? This year, jot your answers down next to each person’s name. (Examples: Mary: pregnant, needs rest / Grinch: likes dog, is lonely, needs friendship.) One or two words is fine. You just want to capture your thinking and create a touchstone you can return to later when the season gets busy and you feel overwhelmed.

Now, list in hand, it’s time to shop. Let’s go someplace new. First stop: You. What skills or qualities do you have that fill in the “need” portion of your list? Could you… Houseclean? Babysit? Play chauffeur? Run errands? Cook a meal? Spend an evening playing cards? Help organize photos or a craft closet? Teach someone… Computer skills? Knitting? A family recipe? How to play a new game? Once again, being present is key. Put yourself into the gift. Even if you are far away from the recipient, it’s not the distance of your bodies, but the distance of your thought.

Don’t be afraid to shop your shelves either. (This can be our second stop.) Do you know a young person who loves to read and needs a new world to explore? What was your favorite book at their age? Is it still on your shelf? Items you have loved – those that you know the recipient will love – make very meaningful presents, especially when you tailor the gift just for them. Write a personal inscription in the book. Or, take this same approach with a movie for your friend who’s a film buff. For the friend who loves to cook, are there any family recipes you know they’d just love?

What connects these ideas isn’t that they’re frugal, it’s that care was taken to make the gifts personal to the recipients. Many families are starting to forego traditional gifts, and instead, opt to invest in experiences that make new memories. In this situation, the group decides what’s meaningful to them at this point in time. The group planning and the shared anticipation can be as much fun as the event itself, and combined, it all works together to extend the season and fill it with meaning for each of you. Perhaps the consensus is charitable giving this year. If you don’t already have a passion or affinity to a specific cause, visit https://greatnonprofits.org/navigation/state for some ideas.

Or, if your budget allows, is planning a trip together. If traveling together over the holidays sounds like something you want to consider, my favorite travel ideas website is https://www.tripadvisor.com/.  Another website that could become another go to is https://www.nomadicmatt.com/.

No matter what you decide, remember your goals: think of your recipients and give gifts that are meaningful to them. Be present in your presents. You don’t have to spend a lot to give a lot. The very best gifts may not have a price tag at all. Where else could you apply these concepts?