Gifts With Lasting Effects

Q: We buy a lot of gifts for people in our extended family throughout the year. They seem happy with the gifts we give, but that happiness is short-lived. What other gift choices should we consider?

A: You're right to notice that the happiness from tangible gifts rarely lasts. This is why many families have chosen alternatives to traditional gifts for holidays, birthdays and special times throughout the year.

Consider these alternatives:

  • Start a Registered Educational Savings Plan for the children in your extended family, or contribute to an existing one. Choices for post-secondary education are broader than ever before, so this gift will have significant meaning when the children face decisions about post-secondary education.
  • Buy a bond every year for your children or grandchildren, or provide a cheque for them to deposit to their tax-free savings account.
  • Donate money to their favourite charity in their name.
  • Buy a membership to their local gym, bulk store or organization of their choice. Buy an annual family membership to their favourite museum, science centre, aquarium or art gallery.
  • Purchase services like home or yard cleaning, or give a homemade gift certificate for free babysitting, an oil change or cooking lessons.

To still have something you can wrap, consider a small gift, like a book or CD, and enclose a note about your alternative gift with the card.

No matter what you choose to do, the gift still needs to fit your budget. While it may be easier to walk into a store and purchase a gift, coming up with creative alternatives will extend your thoughtfulness long after the special day.