These gifts may be a good choice for younger people who are just starting to get interested in taking care of their financial lives, from Chuck Jaffe and MarketWatch.
1. Shares. Buying a newborn baby shares — or even just one share — of a certain company is a nice way to start off a new life, but this works for holiday presents as well. MarketWatch suggests ShareBuilder [affiliate] for starting off in small amounts of stock. I’d watch out for transaction fees, but in the case of a gift, minimizing fees doesn’t have to be a primary goal.
2. Guidance and help. Paying for someone to start seeing an advisor can be a good gift for someone of any age — from those just starting out to those in retirement — trying to get their finances together.
3. Time and service. MarketWatch suggests offering your time as a gift. If you have a friend who has a lot of responsibilities, maybe after a spouse passes away as an example, a gift can be helping that person accomplish tasks that normally lead to exasperation.
4. Relief from monetary pressure. This is a great gift for teenagers. It doesn’t have to be a signal that they don’t have to worry about money and will be always be bailed out by those with more means. A one-time gift can help teens focus on more important issues, like their own education, rather than being burdened for a short time. It also helps to instill a giving attitude; when good is done to them, they may be more inclined to do the same for others once they can.
5. Charity. I have experience with this. I’ve donated to organizations on behalf of my friends when they’ve expressed their interest in certain charities, beyond the typical “Please sponsor me as I walk to cure [insert disease here].” MarketWatch suggests presenting a check to the recipient of the gift made out to anyone other than the recipient.
6. Nothing. The gift of the ungift: overcoming the habit of exchanging gifts with friends. This might be a good idea for a circle of friends with varying levels of income and responsibilities. It’s not as fun, but giving up the tradition of everyone exchanging gifts with everyone else saves money, and that can be a gift in itself.
Updated September 2, 2011 and originally published November 21, 2006.