Not-so-obvious Christmas Gift Guide

not so obvious gift
by Jeffrey Bridgman

Are you as lost as I am when it comes to getting Christmas gifts for others? Here are some conventional and not-so-conventional ideas to get you started!

The Obvious
Gift cards: They’re the automatic fallback when we have no idea what to get someone. As cliché as they may seem, gift cards may still be one of your best options. A little bit of stalking your target and some clever questioning should help you figure out what kind of gift card to get. Whatever you do, do not pay face value for a gift card, unless it is for a local business. If you are flexible on the amount and retailer, use a discount gift card sight, like PlasticJungle.com to get up to 35% off the face value of gift cards and free shipping. All others: spring for a Christmas card to “wrap” it in. And if you happen to remember on December 23 someone significant who also lives at a distance, gift cards can save the day with immediate, e-mail delivery.

Shiny gadgets: Everybody likes them, right? Although a bit pricey, if you want to wow somebody, it may be the way to go. There are ways to mitigate costs too. The most basic Kindle (Amazon’s e-book reader) is now only $79. Tablets, such as the iPad, that used to cost $400-500 now have cheaper brands that sell for $200 or less. And don’t discount refurbished items (on sale through manufacturers’ and major retailers’ Web sites) for even greater savings on perfectly functioning electronics. Pawn shops are a great place to scout for like-new electronics at a fraction of the cost too. Shop at places that will allow you to try the gadgets in the store and return within a few days if problems arise. Just be careful you don’t get infected by tech-envy.
Entertainment: If you know what kind of music, movies or video games the people on your list like, you can save them the hassle of buying it themselves with your gift card.

 

The Not-So-Obvious
The gift of backup: Good friends don’t let friends not have backups. Whether it’s an external hard drive, USB key, or online service, there’s no excuse for not backing up. Your operating system probably comes with backup software built in. You can set it up for your friends, parents, and grandparents. Too impersonal? How about converting your family’s old photos, home videos, and slides to digital media? Since it’s so easy to make copies of those, why not give copies to all of your family members? Or create a photo book online, at Walmart or another retail photography store.
Hand-made gifts: Unlike the shiny gadget option above, hand-made gifts are usually found pretty cheap. But small meaningful gifts on which you spent considerable time and effort may be far more valuable than anything money could buy. Let’s go back to those family photos. You can take inspiration from their favorite things or use an inside joke and make something special out of it. Try visiting craft stores like Hobby Lobby for inspiration. One favorite idea is to make a personalized scripture jar for someone special. For example, maybe a friend or relative suffered a loss of a spouse or parent in the last months. You could find a daily scripture with themes of hope, renewal and encouragement to print or write out on decorative paper and then drop in a hand-decorated box or jar. Each day the recipient can pick out a scripture and think of you.
The thing that changed my life: Maybe it’s a book, song, movie, or a piece of art, but you can share it, inscribed or with a tasteful note explaining why it is special to you. For me it might be a book by C.S. Lewis that got me through a hard time in my life, or a movie that isn’t full of special effects, but tells a beautiful and moving story, nonetheless.
Letters: Don’t know what to buy Mom? A letter telling her how much you appreciate her may mean far more to her than any gift you could buy. Alternatively, if you have a large extended family, you probably aren’t going to buy gifts for everyone, but you could send out a letter, letting them know you miss them and what’s going on in your life.
Time: Maybe the biggest gift you can give is your time. That may mean taking the time to write out an e-mail to a distant friend, or giving them a call. You might just spend some time hanging out and chatting with someone instead of rushing through your day. Or maybe it means doing something a bit more organized, like a…
Trip: Take a trip to some place special. Maybe a scenic drive or a weekend road trip together to see their favorite band, or you could just go shopping or see a movie together.
Helping out: You can volunteer your time for some good cause, such as helping with your church’s Christmas program, or even helping to decorate for your family Christmas celebration. The gift of service is always a good gift. How about detailing a friend or relative’s car?
Charity: It is becoming increasingly more popular to make a charitable contribution in honor of a friend or loved one in lieu of a gift to that person. This makes so much sense – socially and spiritually – that it’s a bandwagon we all should jump on. The options are countless: food banks, homeless shelters, programs such as Toys for Tots which give gifts to children, or choosing to sponsor a child through organizations such as Compassion or WorldVision, Heifer International, Mercy Ships, Smile Train and local charities like the crisis pregnancy center or even a gift to a university.
Prayer: You can pray for the persecuted Church, for unsaved friends, or for the spiritual growth of family members. The gift of prayer can be a powerful gift from a righteous woman!

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