What do you give to the person who has everything already? Your time and attention is probably the best answer. And maybe, having less of both, you go with plan B, which falls anywhere from a gift certificate to an object.
The truth is most of us have more than we need in material goods anyway. As I've written on a couple of occasions, I have been consolidating my physical possessions and getting rid of the excess for a while. It feels good to have less of what matters more, and share the rest with others.
I would not want to discount the value there is in giving gifts. It's well documented that we derive much more enjoyment from giving than from receiving. I thought I would jot down a few gift ideas, and then invite the community to share their take on gift giving.
Gift ideas for every type on your list
1. Going custom
For those who prefer thing that are custom-made, a new site offers to help find a custom-builder for virtually any product a consumer might need. [hat tip Springwise] What can I make for you is a site that acts as broker, helping to connect buyers with makers of goods.
I like the model of connecting makers with buyers. To me, goods take on additional value when they are made by hand, or special, by someone. It's the craftsmanship that goes into it, the care, the personal touch I value.
Whenever I can, I buy locally produced goods for this reason. I really enjoy meeting the people who make them, learning about their art and work, and supporting my community.
2. Going brainy
When I had more time, I read a whole lot more. Even though I read less myself, I still think books and learning material make for a great gift. If you're looking for book reviews to help you with the readers on your list, here are the books I've reviewed and recommended so far on this blog.
One of the things we did among friends and family is also give slightly used books to each other. New to someone else, and it keeps the knowledge flowing, in some cases when the book was out of print, for example.
We loved doing an office exchange at a former company, everyone brought in books they had read and we got to take home books that were new to us. I also take books I have read and am not going to keep to the local library regularly. I'm very gentle on things, so they even look new.
3. Going gourmet
One of the joys of the holidays is getting together with family and friends you may not see the rest of the year. Gathering around a nice meal, either at home or around town, is always a nice way to give time and attention and catch up.
Alternatively, you can think of what your friends or family would enjoy to share with others: wine and spirits, delicacies (I go Italian here, and never miss), fruit baskets for the healthy choice, and yes, the more popular chocolates and sweets, etc. I love dark chocolate truffles and Gianduiotti, for example.
Before I started this blog, I used to bake cookies and biscotti — 17 different recipes from Modena to Piemonte, from cut to cookie press to drop, to true biscotti. A very creative way of warming up the house, and giving something unique.
I then purchased holiday tins where I could fit at least a dozen kinds in rows, wrap the tins in cellophane, and use small ornaments and colored strings to tie it all in. As you can imagine, you needed to suck up to me all year to receive one of those (kidding).
4. Going personal
There is one last thing you can do to make an impression for the holidays, and that is to craft something — your own cards, or come up with special phrases, poems, or thoughts for them, or ornaments. I have done both over the years.
For the cards, I have both cut paper, picked photographs, and personalized thoughts, as well as used my own photography from trips to Europe in printed cards, changing the images every year. In the ornaments department, I have hand painted glass ornaments for the tree, and spice jars, which I then filled with special spices (Indian markets are wonderful places to find bulk quantities) and included recipes.
There's a lot more you can do with your own hands and a little bit of time and patience. Chalk it up to my artistic family and European education, which put emphasis on the arts way back when.
5. Going special for children
Since I was encouraged in the creative direction and have benefited greatly from it, I tend to give children gifts that will let them learn how to read, or how to be creative with raw materials. I've had success with things like construction paper, glitter glues, beads, fabrics, etc. obviously age appropriate.
Other thoughts for children are music or voice lessons, in general something that will help them learn a new skill, or absorb culture, like theater, poetry reading events. If you have an athlete in the family, coaching lessons, and so on.
As a marketer, I think about how can what the business or organization does be the social object or the thing that helps bring people together, enjoy good times, express themselves?
I'm sure you have lots of great ideas for all categories, or new ones to add. What do you enjoy giving? Give your secrets away here. What is the most special gift you have received over the years?