29 Christmas Gifts That Are NOT Things, Gadgets And Just More Stuff

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Look, we love receiving gifts and giving them! The truth is, though, most of us are spatially challenged. Meaning, we’re outta space!

And some of you out there pride yourselves on giving unique gifts. This post will be helpful for you gift givers.

The list below provides ideas and resources to give (or get) gifts that…give back to others, encourage families and friends to hang together, further knowledge and don't take up space.

Ultimately, though, they show your love for the receiver. They’re thoughtful and demonstrate you took time to consider their hobbies, their needs and the things that stress them.

29 thoughtful christmas gifts not things.png

1. Donate to your person’s favorite organization.

Consider what's near and dear to your person’s heart and then make a donation to a group focusing on that cause. Most organizations offer a card or an email to notify someone that money was donated in his/her honor. This is a gift I ask for from my mother-in-law every Christmas, and she happily obliges. In my honor, she gives to Big Oak Ranch (raises abused children in a family setting with Christ as the center) and to OUR (rescues children from sex trafficking rings and works to heal the brokenness).

2. Give the gift of knowledge.

Masterclass offers online courses on singing, chess, cooking, jazz, comedy, screenwriting, tennis, filmmaking and more. The teachers? Well, you’ll recognize the expert’s names…Christina Aguilera, Reba McEntire, Steve Martin, Gordon Ramsay, Martin Scorsese and Serena Williams, to just name a few. An added convenience, Masterclass makes it easy to gift classes by offering digital and physical gift cards.  

  Classes like:  Make your stand up stand out - by Steve Martin. The art of performance - by Usher. Set out to write a best selling book - by James Patterson. And many more... Click to learn more.

Classes like: Make your stand up stand out - by Steve Martin. The art of performance - by Usher. Set out to write a best selling book - by James Patterson. And many more... Click to learn more.

3. Pay for babysitting services.

As a stay-at-home mother speaking frankly, I would appreciate the gift of a night out with my husband or a few hours to shop alone. Urbansitters is one company (somewhat like Care.com) that offers gift cards for those of you living in metropolitan America. For those of us in smaller areas, cash and a nice note saying, “So you can be an adult again” or “Eat a meal while sitting, not standing” would work too.

4. Capture their lives in pictures.

Give the gift of photography sessions. After I had my first son, one of my dear friends gave us a session with a photographer who came to our home. (Yay!) I loved the gift, and her professional pics of our little guy were better than any photo I had taken (like ever!). Check with local photographers for gift cards or session offerings. And, it doesn't have to be a-new-baby thing. Think family pictures, reunions, graduations, birthdays, post health-crises, baptisms and more. 

5. Educate them to capture their lives in pictures.

Our iPhones have us believing we can be professional photographers…until we see images taken by real professionals. Lots of local photographers offer hands-on classes so start looking there. Or for convenience sake, online courses are a good option. Easy Photo Class offers photography classes ranging from taking creative shots to understanding exposure to shooting with a specific camera. The price points go from $50 to $325. Visit the Order page to see a concise list of all the courses offered. Personally, though, I like reading the detailed descriptions on the Workshops page. Another convenience for you, the giver, Easy Photo Class provides a "Gift" option for every course. You simply choose that version when ordering and follow their directions. Easy peasy giving!

 Get free worksheets on camera settings and other pro tips. Plus, browse class offerings on exposure, headshots, blogging photography and more.

Get free worksheets on camera settings and other pro tips. Plus, browse class offerings on exposure, headshots, blogging photography and more.

6. Offer fresh flowers all year long.

BloomsyBox offers handpicked, single-variety bouquets delivered to your special person’s door weekly or monthly. When subscribing for the monthly option, you (the giver) choose to prepay for 3, 6 or 12 months of deliveries. You also can choose to pay month-to-month. It's obviously a few bucks more but is a nice option for a one-time gift. If you don't like the online option or price point, check with your favorite local florist. Does that shop offer a subscription option? I LOVE fresh flowers, but I am a frugal gal, meaning I won’t buy them for myself. So, this is a fun, thoughtful gift to people like me!

 Click to learn more about BloomsyBox.

Click to learn more about BloomsyBox.

7. Got gas?

Not you, silly! Your special person…does he/she have gas? (Mentally, I am inserting the laughing emoji here.) Seriously, though, if your friend drives often or is heading on a road trip soon, he/she will appreciate a gas gift card. A funny note taped to it like “For when gas is an issue” would top it off. (I promise. I am finished with the gas innuendos…for now.)

8. Baby the car.

Many car washing and detailing companies will come to homes and offices these days. It’s kinda like—park it and forget it. Some companies like Spiffy, a national brand operating in most metropolitan areas, offer subscription programs—if one washing and detailing just isn’t enough. And, many offer gift certificates that make giving this gift super easy. My father-in-law gave all his daughters-in-law this present several years ago. Going with a local fellow he has used for years, my father-in-law bought a car detailing session for each lady. It was valid for 12 months so we could use at our convenience. Then, my father-in-law wrote a sweet message to each explaining why he thought it was a perfect gift for us. It was a super thoughtful and useful present!

9. Ride with Uber…for free.

Of course you are welcome to give your friend a lift, any time. But, I was thinking along the lines of giving him/her an Uber ride. It's really easier this way; you don't have to be available 24 hours a day for your gift to be redeemed! :)

10. Ride the city rails.

Buy your special person rides on the city’s public transit system. It’s useful if your friend lives in a metropolitan area. Or, it’s a fun gift if your family member is vacationing in the big city. The easiest way to purchase a riding card (called various names by different cities’ transit systems) is at a ticket window or kiosk inside one of the city’s stations. If you don’t live in the city, you can buy one online and have the card mailed to you or directly to your friend. Lastly, be advised, not all large cities have integrated transit systems so, for example, a card to ride the subway may not allow for riding the bus. (San Francisco is one of those cities while Atlanta’s MARTA is an integrated service). Google the city + public transportation system to get started on this gift project.

11. Teach their kids (or yours!) to cook.

Now, that’s the gift that keeps on giving! Seriously. For years to come (assuming the house doesn’t burn down. But...that’s what the class is for!) Kids Cook Real Food is a robust curriculum that teaches preschoolers to independently make a PB&J and ants on a log while older kids learn to make a roux. The video on the homepage by Katie Kimball, the creator of this ecourse, is well worth watching. There, she explains why teaching kids to cook is about MUCH MORE than meal prep.  The curriculum map shows what beginner, intermediate and advanced students will learn. Scroll to the bottom of the documents for my favorite one--Module Integrations Map. It shows how multiple levels of learners can progress through each lesson, learning something appropriate to him/her that contributes to the family's meal or snack.

 Click to learn how kids can excel in the kitchen. I do think watching Katie Kimball's opening video is worth the time. In about 4 minutes she  explains many reasons why it's important for kids  to learn to cook! (The video does load slowly sometimes, though.)

Click to learn how kids can excel in the kitchen. I do think watching Katie Kimball's opening video is worth the time. In about 4 minutes she explains many reasons why it's important for kids to learn to cook! (The video does load slowly sometimes, though.)

12. Keep the magic of Disney alive (for a bit longer).

Disney offers the Disney Gift Card, which can be purchased online and sent to the receiver via email or standard mail (for free if bought online). There’s no fee or expiration date and can be used for merchandise, dining, staying and playing at the Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disney stores around the nation and its online store ShopDisney.com. Your parent friends will appreciate you "go-funding" their next Disney trip, and well, you know their kids will love it too.

13. Send them to the zoo or museum on you.

As a mom of young children drowning in toys, this gift sounds especially appealing. A membership to a local zoo, museum or botanical garden is educational, fun and family oriented. This gift is great for grandparents on your list too. An added bonus, many memberships offer reciprocal privileges to other museums, gardens and zoos in surrounding areas. Yay!

14. Give the gift of sweat.

Know where your person works out or the gym they’ve always talked about joining? Contact the gym, crossfit group or boot camp to discuss gift giving. It could be as simple as a gift card, or it may be trickier depending on the requirements of the group/gym you are approaching (example: health questionnaires that you can’t and shouldn’t complete for your friend or family member). In any case, do the research for your special person and then present it with a cash gift or gift card.

15. Eat the healthy stuff.

Hey, many of us struggle with healthy eating habits and would enjoy professional coaching and support in this area. There are online options like NaturallySlim, Noom or Jaime Morocco, to just name a few. But, your friend may enjoy an in-person option better. (Me? I need someone staring at me week after week, leaning in and giving me honest feedback. In person would be my best bet!) Often, gyms and wellness centers associated with hospitals are good places to start your search for local nutritionists and coaches.

16. Coach the endurance athlete in your squad.

Groups like Carmichael Training Systems, or CTS, offers endurance training—triathlon, cycling and running coaching—for all levels of athletes, all over the world. My husband, a cyclist and triathlete, has paid for coaching from CTS for many years and loves receiving a personal training plan each month and access to his coach for feedback. It can be very pricey. For my husband, though, it has been well worth it. Another option...pay for your special person to join a training program for a specific race. These training programs usually last 8-12 weeks and, thus, not as costly as a personal coach. The typical price range is $50-$200. For example, Fleet Feet Sports, a running and tri store with locations all over the US, offer training programs for large, local races. By joining the program, runners or triathletes get coaching on specific nights each week leading up to race day and, perhaps more importantly, built-in training buddies (priceless!).

17. Share fitness…anytime and anywhere.

Programs like Beachbody on Demand, Daily Burn and Booya Fitness provide wide ranges of workouts—timeframe, type and equipment required—that allow customers to workout anywhere and anytime.  Parents with young children will appreciate this option…work out without leaving the house! Or, it’s perfect for people who travel often. Because most programs offer a free trial, the simplest way to give this gift is perhaps cash, Google Play or iTunes gift cards (for in-app purchases after the free-trial period ends).  Attach a note or message in the email like “May you always be fit” or “Don’t let a little thing like a baby stand between you and fitness.”  

18. Clean the house.

Pay a service to tidy up the place or to deep clean the dark areas for your loved one. A new mom or a single dad (or anyone in most cases) would appreciate not cleaning for a week or two (or months, depending how generous you’re feeling. Wink.) Many companies also offer specialty services like oven and fridge cleaning, if those options are more along your gift budget or needed in your person’s case. Lastly, know your person well. Some people don’t want anyone touching their things, and in that case, this gift would not be a dream come true. It would be a nightmare!

19. Spruce up the yard.

Similar to paying for a maid service, foot the bill for yard work for your friend or family member. Want to pay for their grass to be cut each week for a month? Flower beds need to be redone, but they have had no time to tackle this project? (Yet, they talk about it constantly!) One idea...take it upon yourself to contact several companies for general estimates, and in an envelope, provide your special person with this info, along with your cash gift, or a gift card if available.

20. Give the gift of music…class.

Got someone wanting to play the piano or guitar? Give them music lessons. Check with local music schools and teachers for options in your price range. And of course, you have online options. Guitar Tricks is one and has been in operation since 1998. Guitar Tricks teaches fundamentals and provides lessons specific to genres of music--rock, country, blues, etc. (I think that's why the reviews on and off the site are stellar. Students feel they are learning quickly because they are learning the music most interesting to them.) It offers a free-access library of songs and lessons by simply creating an account. But even cooler, it offers a full-access library of over 11,000 lessons and 700 songs (with a 14-day free trial).

 One month of full access begins about $20. Gift certificates from the site can be purchased for 3, 6 or 12 months. (And of course, you can start for free!) Click the banner to learn more about Guitar Tricks.

One month of full access begins about $20. Gift certificates from the site can be purchased for 3, 6 or 12 months. (And of course, you can start for free!) Click the banner to learn more about Guitar Tricks.

21. Take art to a new level.

Got someone in the family interested in the finer points of art? Already a photographer but would like to start a photography business? Already a great musician but would like to start recording or engineering?  Creative Live is a great site that offers over 1500 classes on topics in 5 areas: photography, audio, art, craft making and money. They offer individual classes, most with the "Give as a gift" button and even offer paths, which is a grouping of classes designed to take a student from point A to point B. (ex: How to Start a Podcast is a path available for purchase.) An added bonus, Creative Live offers many On Air courses that can be watched for free by simply creating an account (for free).

 From Craft Maker Courses like  Making a Living Selling What You Make  and  Water Color 101  to Audio & Music classes like  Recording Rock Vocals  and  Fix it in the Mix . Click to explore ALL the classes offered by Creative Live.

From Craft Maker Courses like Making a Living Selling What You Make and Water Color 101 to Audio & Music classes like Recording Rock Vocals and Fix it in the Mix. Click to explore ALL the classes offered by Creative Live.

22. Take in a picture show.

With a Fandango gift card, your special person is free to choose the movie, time and theater. Talk about convenient and fun! To redeem a gift card, the lucky recipient will go to Fandago’s website or app and select the specific movie and theater there; Fandango cards are NOT redeemable at movie theaters. Feeling generous? Fandango also partners with Darden Foods (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn and more) to offer Dinner + A Movie. This option is around $50.

23. Experience life.

Give fun life experiences like zip lining, paddle boarding, rock climbing, sky diving, hot-air ballooning and so much more. Think of things your special person has said he/she would love to do but never took the time to do. Start with Google (duh--how did we ever live without it?!) to get the details, price, requirements, etc. and purchase gift certificates if available. 

24. Plant a tree.

Sites like plantmemorialtree.com and alivingtribute.org allow you to pay for trees to be planted in honor (or memory) of a friend or family member. They also mail cards so your special person will be notified of the donation made in his/her honor. It's a perfect gift for a friend who is always giving back to our beautiful earth! Plus, it's a reasonably priced gifts. One tree costs between $10-$15.

25. Name a star.

It’s a sentimental gift that’s out of this world! (I apologize; I just couldn’t resist.) Based on my research on price and customer reviews, Star-Registration.com is probably the most complete star-naming gift because the name is entered in the Star-Name Registry and is good forever. Plus, you get to present your family member with a star-name certificate and a star map so he/she can locate the special star. That will run you around $40. Just know, you (the giver) will name the star and present the certificate to your loved one. Or, you could present cash money with the note attached, “Name your star…on your own time and in your own space.” (I had to include just one more space pun.) If you are looking for a cheaper option, Name a Star Gift Box is similar but doesn’t promise the star named will be visible and entered in the Star-Name Registry. It’s around $20.

26. Take care of the feet.

That and "Don't do anything stupid" were Lt. Dan's 2 rules for survival. (Forrest Gump, people!) So, to help with this, give pedis (and manis) to your loved ones. Manicures and pedicures are the ultimate luxury gift! Most of us enjoy them but often don't take the time or want to spend the money to get them. So...they make the perfect gifts. Check with your local salons for pricing and gift cards. 

Running Really Low on Funds?

Let’s get real. Sometimes Christmas season gets tight. But, you can show love and thoughtfulness with very little money (like with just a few dollars).

27. Research.

Often times, the not knowing (or not taking the time to learn) is what keeps us from embarking on our next great adventure. So...”learn” for your friend or relative. Do the research on the best places to camp in Yosemite, the gear recommended and what months are best for hiking. Your friend has wanted raised beds in her/his backyard for 2 years now! Read about the materials needed, what plants do best and what are advantages and disadvantages. Then, print off the MOST USEFUL research, organize it by topics and perhaps include it all in a folder or binder. Present your gift with a kind note like “So you can do what you’ve always wanted” or “Your first step to chasing your dream.” If you can add a little cash or gift card, great. If not, no worries! You gave them one of the most important gifts…knowledge and a starting point. (That’s what I have attempted to give you with this article...a starting point for buying non-"things" gifts.)

 28. Write.

This sounds like a 4th-grade suggestion, but I’m in earnest here. In fact, I bet you can quickly recall a handwritten note or an unexpected, kind email. And, that proves my point. Words matter. To give someone your feelings about her/him in WRITTEN FORM is one of the most genuine gifts you can offer. It takes courage, your time and a willingness to be creative. If you can’t think of what to say, start with a specific event or choose a word that describes her/him. Give examples of how your loved one embodies that word. Or, be silly but loving. Make a list like “25 Reasons You Stink…1.) Your feet…but they save me from giant spiders. 2.) The tuna fish salad you make…but you always share with this hungry girl.” My last suggestion—take your time writing. Start early and work on it over several days.

29. Offer.

If you can’t afford to hire a housekeeper for your mom, then offer to help tackle “that” closet with her. Can’t afford to pay for a sitter to give your sister and her husband a much-needed night alone? Well, you can babysit or offer to run the kids around one afternoon. To make this gift different than the infamous “Coupon Book to Mom,” set a date when you present your genuine offer. Put it in your phone, write it on your calendar or shoot up flares. Do whatever you have to do to make this offer a reality. Also, periodically remind your loved one of the date you two set, talk about it excitedly and, most importantly, do it. Serious talk here—in today’s culture, your time and energy are the most precious things you can give someone.     

The end...for now. :) Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

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