If there was ever a time of year to get serious about managing your finances, the holidays with all the gift giving is it!

Here are some fun ways to give meaningful gifts without maxing out your credit card. Figure out how much you can afford to spend and don’t go over it. The trick is to focus on creating memories rather than loading up your loved ones with more stuff they don’t really need.

Here are some ideas:
  • Quality Time: Spend time with loved ones doing something fun. Think about ways you can spend time with that person regularly so that they can look forward to it all year long. This can be any activity that the person enjoys, from watching movies at home to going hiking.
  • Acts of Service: Provide a service (at no charge) that your loved ones would normally pay someone for such as babysitting, tax preparation, yoga lessons, computer training, photography, dog-walking, or maybe even cooking or baking lessons.
  • Chef for a Day: Whatever your specialty is in the kitchen, whether it be baking cupcakes or your world famous tiramisu, you can whip up a batch of your most delicious recipes as your gift to someone. The time, effort and love that goes into making it for them will definitely be appreciated.
  • Build Together: Whether it be your significant other, your siblings, or your kids – putting something together can be lots of fun. The final product provides a sense of accomplishment, and doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Be creative and think about the types of things that you could build together that would be fun and memorable.
  • Photo Memories: In today’s digital age when everyone’s photos tend to lie dormant in the dark depths of their computer hard drives, it’s a special treasure to have a selection of photos compiled into a good old fashioned, paper and ink, photo album. There are some excellent software programs out there for doing this quickly and easily, at a surprisingly low cost. Check out Photobook Worldwide for some great photo gift ideas.
  • Gift Exchange: When families grow, so does Santa’s gift-giving list. Instead of buying 20 gifts, plan a gift exchange game like “White Elephant” or “Secret Santa” where everyone only needs to buy one gift and usually there is a spending limit. Check out Elfster.com which is a free online tool to host a gift exchange for any holiday event.


No matter what the ads say, the holiday season isn’t about material things.

You can make the holidays a truly memorable celebration of life and family with your actions. These are just some ideas on how to give great gifts without going into debt – be creative and the possibilities are endless.