Gift-Giving Ideas That Can Change Lives


Let’s be honest. Most gifts you receive during the gift-giving season are pretty lame: a sweater you politely wear a couple of times or a CD you casually listen to in the car and wonder, "How did I end up with this?"

Most of the time you show a little interest and then it fades away — you’ve wasted your money and the person getting the gift hasn’t gotten much in exchange.

Such is life.

How about trying something different this season by giving a gift that has the potential to change another person’s life?

Give Your Own Business

That’s right, instead of trying to figure out which sweater sucks less or which gift card is less lame, sit down and think hard about the person you’re getting a gift for. How could they turn their hobby/interest into a business?

I know what you’re thinking right now, “But wait, starting a business isn’t for everyone!” And you’d be right, but that doesn’t mean a gift like this won’t go a long way. It could be the first step in an alternative source of income or even some passive income on the side. It could become a side business that makes that person happy to go to his/her “regular” job every day.

Give Charity

Charity is something we often forget to do in our lives, so if someone else gets us started, that’s a pretty cool gift. It might not be as cool or hip or exciting, but rare is the gift that helps other human beings live a better life. Check out a site like Charity Navigator, which helps you find different charities around the world.

Surprise Them

This is my favorite gift tip of all time: surprising someone. It’s the closest thing I can think of to the perfect gift. It's kind of like Extreme Home Makeover: everybody wins.

  • The person getting surprised gets to be surprised, which this day in age is a rarity.
  • Giving this gift is just as rewarding — seeing the person’s face light up is priceless.
  • It’s not easy, and that means the person giving it thought about it a LOT. Trust me on this one. That shows you care and that goes a long way too.

Instead of doing the same old thing this holiday season, try something different and see how it goes. If you don’t like it, you can always go back to sweaters and CDs next year.

Do you any suggestions for life-changing gifts?

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Guest's picture

I agree that real surprises have the greatest impact, and cost has nothing to do with it.

John DeFlumeri Jr

Guest's picture

My cousin was a NYC firefighter who was a first responder to the 9/11 tragedies. He has contracted a rare form of leukemia and is dying. He needs a bone marrow transplant.

My Christmas gift to possibly him, and obviously to someone, was to sign up to donate bone marrow.

I think its the best gift I can give to someone.

Anyone interested can contact me for more information--I won't post links or anything here because I am not into the shameless promotion of anything.

It is a simple process however. Easier than you might think.

Guest's picture

I like the idea about giving them something that enables them to turn a hobby or interest into a business, there's lots of great tools out there to do that nowadays.

I'll add another gift suggestion to your list that is sure to be remembered by both parties - a donation gift certificate. Give a donation to a worthy cause in someone's name and make an impact with your gift by changing a life.

There are countless worthy causes out there to choose from. One I would suggest is Forgotten Voices International - a nonprofit organization that provides and cares for AIDS orphans in Africa. A small donation goes a long way in Zambia - if you feel inclined please check it out:

Happy holidays!

Guest's picture

I like the "give charity" idea. Its a good idea for the one who has everything.

Guest's picture

I think it is presumptuous to give a charity donation as a gift---how wonderfuul that you get a nice feeling and a tax write off, but as the recipient it leaves me cold. I want to be the one who decides what charity I want to support and when and how much.

Guest's picture

Linden, I totally agree with you. If I donate, it is my chosing and not someone's elses. I may not support the causes someone else does. And you are right, they get the tax write-off, and all I get is the endless calls, and mailings from whatever group it was they donated to in my name, wanting more money from me.

As a rule I prefer to give food to food shelves, to adopt a family at the Holiday's, or to just leave food on friend's doorsteps that I know are struggling. That way I know my donation of money, food, toys etc. it reaching the recipient who really and truly needs it.

Guest's picture

You are so right, Linden. I encourage you to check out TisBest Philanthropy's charity gift cards. They work just as you suggested: you give the gift (donation) in the form of a gift card, but the recipient chooses from among 250 charities on the TisBest website. The cards can be customized with your own image and greeting.

Guest's picture

I agree with you 100%.

Guest's picture

Great ideas. You confused me for a second with the portable router, didn't know it was a word working tool. It made me realize I spend entirely too much time around computers.

I'm a big fan of the charity gift and surprising them. I usually keep a list through out the year of potential gifts. Either things they mention or things I can tell they definitely need.

Guest's picture

i like to give services that i know a person cant do. like my moms arthristis is too bad to really clean her car, so give a certificate to get her car detailed.

earlier this year i overheard a conversation between coworkers that revolved around the person only haveing crackers in their house to eat, and they used up the last of their bread to make toast for dinner. i went out that night and bought a gift card at our local grocer and snuck it into her coat pocket when she was out of the room.

these are the type of gifts we should be giving. it just means more than the sweater. (ok, yeah, i did go ahead and by my mom a sweater too) =)

Guest's picture

Charity gift cards give the gift of charity but allow the recipient to choose which charity gets the money. Check out TisBest Philanthropy. They're beautiful.

Guest's picture

Thanks to Wisebread,com for giving a positive push to charitable giving.
Consumer Reports came out with negative warning about charity gift cards that was poorly researched and poorly thought out. All of the positive posts here show how wrong they are. You can join the discussion with your comment on our CharityChoice Gift Cards blog at -

Daniel Goodman
President, Special Kids Fund and CharityChoice

Guest's picture

Be careful with the surprise thing. My husband asked how I wanted to spend my birthday and I had it all planned out, and then he and my parents thought I'd enjoy being surprised by being taken to do something completely different, which I really had no interest in. I think it would have been different if it was something I'd wanted to do for a while and had mentioned really wanting to do it, but instead they just assumed I'd like it.

Guest's picture

Yes, you're right. Chickens are a very useful gift for those in need because they provide a source of food and revenue. Great post!

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