How to give more while spending less

Time. You would probably be surprised at how many people on your gift list would enjoy an evening of company more than a boxed gift.

Notes of appreciation. Instead of commercial Christmas cards with generic messages, take the time you would normally spend shopping for gifts to write those people personal notes telling them what makes them special to you.

Custom gift cards. Make gift cards promising to do repairs or cleaning jobs, babysit, run errands, teach a skill you have, or perform some other service.

Make or bake. When you exchange gifts in your office or social circle party, you could suggest that people bring simple baked goods or a homemade gift instead of more expensive retail items.

Share your children. Make recordings of your children singing Christmas carols, reading stories, or telling about their latest activities for grandparents and other relatives who won’t be able to spend Christmas with you, or frame and send them some of your children’s best artwork.

Open your house. Know a university student who can’t afford to go home for the holidays or someone else who doesn’t have any family locally? Invite him or her to spend the holidays with you and your family.

Think local. By doing your Christmas shopping at independently owned local stores that are having an especially tough time in the present economic climate, you can in a sense be giving double—once to the recipient and once to the shop owner.

Volunteer at a shelter or charity. Make others’ Christmas special by spending yours with them. Volunteer as a family or group of friends and you will also strengthen your ties and create a shared memory.

Give your gifts away. Skip the family gift exchange and instead give gifts to a poor family in your community. Local charitable organizations can help you find a family in need. Then take your children shopping and help them pick out Christmas gifts for the needy children. Or you can pool the money you would normally spend on gifts for each other and help alleviate poverty in the developing world by donating to the needy.

A thoughtful Christmas gift doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or require hours of searching through crowded malls. All that is needed is your big heart and an imagination.—Linda Kling

If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.—George MacDonald (1824–1905)

Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.—Ruth Carter Stapleton (1929–1983)