Give a Gift to a Charity
This was the option that my husband and I chose for last year. We decided how much we had in our budget to give, and made a donation to one of my favorite charities Heifer.org This is a non-profit organization that I discovered while in college through Alpha Phi Omega. I was looking for a service project to keep me busy for the second half of my senior year, and just happened upon Heifer.org The premise behind the organization is to give farm animals to communities in need with the guidance so that they can combine resources to breed animals for generations to come. This and many other charities have gift cards you can print out for family members to let them know that you have made a donation in their name.
Your Favorite Book
My favorite book is Cod : The Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky. There is nothing better then a cozy afternoon by the fireplace with a good book. I like Cod, because although it is a history book it is light enough for the non-history buff, and it tells a story of how humans have had an impact on the world that can be applied to many other events in history. When I give a book I like to give a book that I have enjoyed, and think the recipient will enjoy as well. It is more personal then choosing something off the shelf, and a handwritten note about why you like the book makes the gift even sweeter. Older books are also readily available used on sites like Barnes & Noble which can help you keep to your holiday budget goals.
It is not about the physical gift, it is the experience that creates the memory. You can give adventures on a variety of budgets from a day trip to a weekend trip to an entire vacation. If you have kids include them in on the decision about what they would like to do. A day at the park or museum creates long lasting memories that you will be talking about for years to come.
Handmade gifts made with thought and love can be a very budget friendly way to give gifts. You can make the gift yourself with your own idea or check out this list of 100 Homemade Gifts for some ideas. Handmade gifts support artisans who may be hobbyists or have their own small business. They come in a variety of price points so if you would rather purchase then make you are in luck. Local craft fairs and websites like Etsy are great places to find just the right handmade gifts for everyone on your list.
Passes to Local Attractions
A family pass to a local park, museum or aquarium is a great way to give a gift that will get people out and moving. Yearly passes are often available at these types of places that will allow the recipient plenty of time to visit over and over again and encourage them to stay active.
If you don't have any money to spend your time can be a great gift alternative. Make a coupon book with offerings like 1 hour of babysitting, 1 home cooked dinner, 1 hour of garden work, etc to give to each person on your list. People always enjoy a break from their day to day grind and will be thankful when they cash in your promises.
Fresh Fruit or Vegetables
There are many places on the web where you can order fresh fruit and vegetables to brighten the winter blues. This healthy alternative is also delicious, and will give the recipient a momentary break from grocery shopping. My favorite is Melissa's Baby Vegetable Basket which is the perfect size for a family. If you have more money to spend you might consider giving a gift of a weekly or monthly box of fruits and vegetables from your local farm or co-op. You can also pair your gift with a cookbook for an extra touch!
After Christmas Shopping Spree
Why not wait until after the holiday's and hit the sales? Spend Christmas Day with the family, and the day after hit the mall with a budget in mind. When you come home everyone goes into a different room to wrap their finds, and then gift exchanging can happen in the evening. If have a large family consider a secret santa where each person draws the name of one person to give a gift to with a dollar amount given for each person to spend.
Family Recipes or Cooking Gifts in a Jar
Do you have a special family recipe that everyone is always asking you for? Why not cook it for the people on your gift list, and include the recipe on a fancy note card as well. Recipes with many dry ingredients work well given in a jar with a recipe attached, but make sure you pick a good healthy one. Some ideas I found are Friendship Soup Mix, Diabetic Rice Pudding, Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie & Blue Cornbread with Pineapple. Also check out this article for some ideas on how to decorate your jar.