The Ultimate Gift Guide: Unique Holiday Gift Ideas & Some Fun Twists on Old Gifts By Carol Ross

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Gift buying can be a stressful endeavor for even the savviest of shoppers. For the shopping-challenged it can be downright torturous. No matter which camp you fall into, it’s pretty much unavoidable this time of year. I fancy myself a pretty good gift-giver and I’m always thinking, looking, and listening for new ideas or old ideas done better. Here are a few of my favorites:

Time – This is truly one of the most precious of gifts. You can make a coupon for the recipient to redeem for almost anything, window washing (or some other household chore you know they dislike), making or teaching a craft that you excel at, playing a game of cards, cooking or baking a favorite dish together, or even a simple lunch date. Being the recipient of these coupons a few times and never redeeming them, I suggest taking it to the next level. Pin down the event with a specific date and time.

An Experience – My favorite of all gifts to give. An experience can be something as simple as a movie, but I think it’s more fun if it’s an activity the recipient has never done, has always wanted to do, or loves to do! Beyond the classics like bungee jumping and skydiving, some suggestions include tickets for a concert or play, an art exhibit, or even an airplane ticket (or gift card to the airline if a ticket is out of your price range.) A lesson is a fun idea as well, pottery, dancing, painting, archery, guitar – whatever you think your special person might enjoy.

Your Voice ­­­­­­­­­­­­­– Make an audio recording, or even an audio recording with a slideshow. This is a fun twist on the photo, one of the most beloved gifts you can give to a loved one. Compile a simple slideshow of some of your favorite photos and then narrate it. Enlisting the kids, nieces/nephews, or grandkids to add their voices is sure to bring tears, happy ones, of course! Or you can add snippets of their favorite songs. This gift is also nice for those with smaller homes or apartments without a lot of space to display photos. If you’re not tech savvy, enlist the help of a young one in your life. They’ll know the basics of PowerPoint or other similar programs and can help put it together. If this is too daunting, just stick with a simple recording and skip the photos.

Edible Extra – I know, I know, everyone gets a cookie or a candy tray (or 10) during the holidays. And these are wonderful! I love them. (Please, don’t stop bringing them to me.) But how about taking this to another level? Make a casserole, a pot of soup, a pan of lasagna, or a favorite casserole and freeze it! Place it in one of those cute holiday containers, write the date on it, and add instructions for how to thaw and/or cook if necessary. Just think how nice it would be to take a pan of lasagna (that you didn’t have to make) out of the freezer on January 3, when all the company is gone and you’re all cooked out!

Pet Gifts – For the person on your list who has everything – and a dog or cat. This might seem odd as the gift is actually for the pet. But if they are over the top about their dogs like *cough, cough* some people (okay, me) then they will love it. One year my stepdaughter bought me/my dog a funky and cool dog dish and a fancy leash/collar set for Christmas. I loved them! And I thought of her every day when I used the items. And I never would have sprung for these pricier options myself.

Words – Write a letter. I’m talking about a real letter written on paper with a pen or pencil. Tell your mom, uncle, sister-in-law, or friend all the things you love about them. Write about the craziest fun time you ever remember having together. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, or the fact that your handwriting looks like chicken scratch. They’ll never notice. They’ll be too busy loving every word. You could even have it laminated or, if you’re the crafty type, you can frame it.

No Gifts! – This is a tradition I cherish on my side of the family. Gift buying really, really stresses my mom out. At her suggestion, we started this many years ago after my generation was grown with families of our own. We only buy for the kids. Period. (The cut-off is graduation from college, gainful employment, or marriage.) The gift of no-gifting is the elimination of some holiday stress. But remember, this only works if EVERYONE sticks with it! (No sneaking and buying a little something for someone. You’ll ruin the magic of it!)

Hope this list gives you some ideas or at least sparks some holiday gift ideas. And remember, as you set out on this year’s shopping adventure, or nightmare, depending on your perspective, it really is the thought that counts!

In Heartwarming Holiday Wishes, Carol Ross contributed Gingerbread Girl. Her latest Harlequin Heartwarming release is Summer at the Shore.