3 Unusual Gift Ideas for Loved Ones

Every year I struggle to find meaningful gifts for relatives that they will appreciate instead of adding to the clutter of "stuff" that they already own. It's a bit challenging, especially since I always intend to shop early in the year, but find myself rushing with a week left before Christmas. However, over the past few years I've borrowed creative gift ideas from friends and relatives that most people would find refreshing compared to the store-bought "hot" ticket items that are often over-priced. These ideas range in price from practically free (depending on how you view your time) to more expensive. (See also: 25 Awesome, Useful Gifts)

Hand-Crafted Coupon Books

As a teenager who was usually broke, I often had to think "outside the box" when it came to gift giving. I didn't have much money during my teen years, but I still wanted to show my parents and family members how much I loved them by giving them a gift they would appreciate. One of the best gifts my mother ever commented on was a coupon book that I hand-wrote containing everyday chores I would do for free. The coupons included a night of washing dishes, taking out the trash, and washing the car. Of course these days, my mother isn't looking for me to wash the dishes; she'd instead prefer a visit!

With so many stationery options and easy access to computer graphics, coupon books can still be an excellent and creative way for those short on cash to show their appreciation for close friends and family members. The coupons don't have to stop at cleaning or mowing; they can be used for spending time with each other or offering to babysit your friend's children so the parents can have a date-night out. (See also: 25 Gifts You Can Make Today)

Price range per gift recipient: Free to minimal (depending on how much time you set aside).

Family or "Group" Gifts

Last year I finally appreciated a piece of "junk" mail I received in my mailbox. It was a coupon for an Omaha Steaks gift basket. For a reasonable price, I was able to send my sister-in-law and her family of five a delicious amount of steak and chicken along with a couple of side dishes, enough food for at least three meals. It was a gift I knew they would use and appreciate, and it wouldn't go to waste or end up broken within a week. I also saved money because it was a "family" gift versus five individual gifts.

This year, instead of repeating last year's gift basket idea, I decided to purchase her family a membership to a place they enjoy visiting: the zoo. With two young children who need engaging activities over the winter and summer breaks, I felt this gift would be something their entire family could enjoy. Not only does it promote learning, it also promotes activity. Again, I saved money by purchasing a single gift instead of one for each person.

Alternative family gifts could include memberships to museums or a gift certificate to a local performing arts center, depending on the family members' preferences. Since the whole family can enjoy the gift, it reduces the amount of shopping stress and saves time for the purchaser, especially if the list of recipients is long.

Price range per gift recipient: Averages $16 to $50 per person (depending on the type of family gift and local membership options).

Personalized Memorabilia

One of my favorite gifts to this day is a wedding gift I received many years ago; it was a personalized keepsake box with our names and wedding date inscribed on the top. It was an incredibly thoughtful gift that I still cherish.

There are plenty of stores dedicated to personalizing blankets, boxes, wine glasses, and clocks that make terrific gifts for family members, friends, and colleagues. However, a few months ago I came across a website, Tynsy's Miracle Bears, that sells "Huggable Heirlooms" that are quite personal. It's a gift that only a close family member would purchase for another relative: a teddy bear made out of a person's clothing who has passed away. At first it sounded a bit strange, almost bordering on morbid. However, once I read their customer letters and stories, I realized that these teddy bears could be purchased any time after a person has passed away. That got me thinking about my grandparents and how I'd like a bear made out of my grandmother's blouse or my grandfather's Army uniform. I also thought about my siblings and how they might like one too. Since these bears are sewn out of the clothing of a lost loved one, I realized I was too late to order one for this Christmas, but it's something I'll look into for next holiday season, as I plan my shopping for earlier in the year!

Price range per gift recipient: $25 to $85 (depending on the personalized gift).

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Guest's picture

Lots of great ideas....I agree, you have to think outside the box....no need to shell out a lot of money.....here are some more along those lines! Keep up the great blogposts on Wisebread!