The True Value Of The Gift Of Time

By Alicia Kellebrew
NFCC Certified Financial Professional
The Village Financial Resource Center

The holidays, with all their gift-giving and stocking filling, are rapidly approaching. But, you know, the older I get (not that I am getting old!) the more I realize that it’s not the things I receive that mean the most to me or that I remember. It’s the time I spend with my family and friends and the things I do. I’ve also noticed that many gifts I’ve spent a lot of time and effort hand-selecting end up in corners collecting dust – not because they were bad gifts or people didn’t appreciate them, but because we all have so much stuff!

The gift of time has a tendency to be one of the most underutilized gifts out there, but it is often the most meaningful. So what are some ways that you can break away from the “Buy and Give” holiday mold? I can think of a few.

  1. Think outside the box (literally!): Instead of simply buying something so you can cross someone off your holiday list, consider a different, time-focused approach such as proposing an afternoon of crafting, cooking, baking, movie watching, or playing board/card games. Maybe offer your time and talents as an act of service to someone; this might include cleaning, car maintenance/repair, babysitting, or giving a lesson on something that you know how to do that they don’t.
  1. Focus on experiences rather than things: This could be something as simple as a gift card to a favorite hangout spot or a new place you would like to encourage someone to try (which would be risk free for them since you paid!). Other ideas could be tickets to a movie, concert, or sporting event or planning and paying for a getaway (even if it’s just an overnight stay somewhere close to home or impromptu road trip). The idea here is that the memories you make while doing something with someone will long outlive any item you may purchase.
  1. Consider going homemade: If you are a crafty person, consider using your crafting abilities to make something to give away as a gift, such as personalized jewelry sets, knitting hats or scarves, or baking up some of their favorite treats. If you are not as crafty, you could enlist the help of a crafty friend or could even get other family members in on the action, which is especially fun when kids are involved.
  1. Rethink your position on gift cards and find a way to make them more interesting: I am one of those people who always hated buying gift cards for people because it felt like the easy way out. If this is you, use the gift cards as part of a larger gift. For example, you might combine a gift card to a nice restaurant with a new tie for the gentleman to wear and a new accessory like a scarf, shawl, or piece of jewelry for the lady to wear. This allows you to personalize your gift while keeping it pretty functional. The two will have a lovely evening (on you!) and will think back to it whenever they wear the pieces that were part of your gift.
  1. Consider making your gift something that will benefit others: There are a few really neat ways to do this. The obvious one is to make a charitable donation in someone else’s name to an organization or group they care about. You could also be on the lookout for donation drives set up to collect gifts and necessities for those in need. But, keeping with the time-focused theme, another way to do this might be to propose a day of volunteering together, whether that is at a soup kitchen or the Humane Society. Or you might consider checking on the regulations for visiting in local assisted living facilities or senior citizen centers. My parents used to take me to do this when I was younger, and it is amazing how much the simple act of just sitting and talking with residents means to them.

Bottom line: The whole point of the holiday season is to spend time with family and friends and show them how much we care about them. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate, but it never hurts to explore some new ideas. And, of course, it might just save you a dollar or two.

About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.