I believe in social responsibility and values. As a credit union employee, I get to put those values into action every day. I help members achieve their financial dreams. I educate and empower my community. I get to skip through rows of pine trees and chop down the best Charlie Brown tree to decorate my office. Ok, that may not be a credit-union sanctioned activity, but it is fun!
Amid the twinkling lights and hot cocoa, I often hear from members who struggle over the holidays. Struggle to pay for gifts and events. Struggle to pay their December bills. Struggle to set and stick to a budget over the holidays. Struggle to find the right gifts.
The joy of the holiday season is not always quite so joyful, it seems. Sometimes we feel like Frosty the Snowman: running to keep up with our friends, only to be left melting in a puddle of bills and a hat we can’t remember why we purchased.
Want to avoid the cycle of debt – paying for holiday expenses on credit and then not being able to pay down the debt without penalties and interest?
Want to find gifts that won’t be outgrown – or worse – re-gifted?
Want to use your purchasing power to help others?
Here are a few ideas for gifts that keep on giving...
Your kids or grandkids may not appreciate a shiny new certificate for Christmas, but they will appreciate a lower debt load when they graduate from college. Consider buying a smaller gift and putting the bulk of your gift giving into an RESP contribution. The kids will have something that won’t get lost on a toy room floor and you’ll have peace of mind knowing you helped them succeed.
Back in the day, grandparents often gave gold, bonds, or silver dollars as gifts. It may seem antiquated now, but it’s a great way to help kids save and invest in their future. Today, you can invest in a GIC and choose the term for the child on your list. This gift will keep giving because it will earn interest and when the term is due, the child can reinvest the GIC and add to it with any allowance or birthday money that might come their way. You can also add to the investment each year. Teach the value of investing and give the gift of financial security.
Another great one for kids. Well, not so great for the kids that want toys, but great for teaching a bigger lesson in financial literacy. Give a kid money and help them learn to save that money for bigger items. As a bonus, they’ll likely appreciate the item more because of the effort in saving and purchasing it. If you want to give to someone over 20 or over 20 km away, a prepaid credit card is a great substitute for cash. They can be used anywhere like cash without affect a person’s credit. Gift recipients get to buy what they want and you avoid the fake smiles and thank you’s that come from gifts that missed the mark.
Using an innovative crowdfunding model, Kiva offers “loans that change lives” to people around the world. You can lend as little as $25 and support someone as they start or grow a business, go to school, realize their potential, or simply survive. Unlike a donation, funds you lend to Kiva are repaid. As Kiva says: “Dreams are universal. Opportunities are not.” With this organization you have the opportunity to make a difference.
Fair Trade Products
Want to give something but still give back? Check out the goods at fair trade companies like Ten Thousand Villages. Every purchase helps improve the lives of the makers by supporting their craft and providing a fair and stable income. You can feel good about giving a gift that helps others live a better life.
You can help a child live a better life by buying a Survival Gift from UNICEF. Biscuits, books, blankets, back to school packs, and balls are all simple gifts that can make a world of difference to a child. You can also purchase bigger items, like vaccines, water pumps, hygiene kits, or an emergency medical centre. As UNICEF says, this is a great choice “Because no child is too far”.
Animal Shelter Donations
Have an animal lover in your life? Donate in their name to a local animal shelter. So many pets are purchased and then surrendered over the holiday season – donating food or money to a shelter can mean a better life for an abandoned animal. Wrap up a donation in a stuffed animal. Put it with a cute kitty photo. Personalize the donation and make a trip to the shelter together to see how your dollars made a difference.
Local Charity Groups
There are so many options with this one – find a cause that is close to the heart of the person you are giving to and show them some love. Give to kids in a local women’s shelter. Provide the fixings for a hot meal for a family that is new to Canada. Donate to Habitat for Humanity, Family Support Niagara, or the Out of the Cold Program. You can give the gift of your time and service with the Out of the Cold program too (over 400 volunteers run the Out of the Cold Program seven days a week between November and March). If you do buy gifts, visit the Pen Centre wrapping station where Hospice Niagara will wrap them for you and all donations will help a great local organization. By giving to local charities you have a chance to give the gifts of happiness and gratefulness to both the gift recipient and the organizations in need – double the giving and double the joy.
Make a personalized gift to brighten spirits and lighten your financial load. Pinterest and the internet are full of ideas to inspire your crafty side and help you create something more meaningful than a store bought gift. Homemade jellies and jams for those sweet and spicy people on your list. Essential oil infused bath salts for stressed out teachers. Cookie or baking mixes for your recipe-challenged friends. Holiday ornaments from the heart. Whether you make food, craft, or home décor items, homemade gifts can provide a sense of satisfaction and ease the pinch on your wallet this holiday season.
Have you ever felt pressured to buy a gift for someone even though they won’t want what you can afford to buy? How often have you tossed a dollar store gift in a drawer and forgotten about it? Consider buying memories over material goods this year. Pay for an experience — like a fun-filled evening out with friends, a massage for someone going through a rough time, or a cleaning service for a busy friend — instead of giving another candle or soap set. Not only will you support your loved one, you can also support a local business, while creating happy memories.