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Top 12 Unique, Colorful Holiday Gift Ideas

Only twenty-something shopping days left—it’s amazing how quickly the holiday season flies by once it gets here. I’m still trying to get my shopping done, and if anyone can give me the lowdown on where I can find a cheap price on a Nintendo Wii, my kids would be most appreciative.

Speaking of holiday shopping, this “most wonderful time of the year” will likely be a little different than seasons past due to the Grinch-like grip the economy has on our wallets. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a Scrooge. Below are some “colorful,” unique ideas applicable to both personal holiday spending and shopping for the people in your office to help offset the Bah-Humbug budget blues this December. Because the holidays are about both giving and receiving, and we’ve got the proverbial 12 days of Christmas, we’ve provided five colorful gift ideas, and seven giving opportunities that will give you a rewarding feeling in return:

A White Elephant—Inspired by the rare, valuable, but useless possessions of nobles in southeastern Asia and India, white elephant gifts work great either on an individual basis or with a group of people, such as at a holiday party or the office. Many variations of White Elephant gift exchange games exist, but whether it’s an unopened boxed copy of Microsoft Windows 3.5 from 1994, anything totally 80’s, or this, it’s a fun, inexpensive way to continue the tradition of gift giving.

The Green Gift – Re-gifting is such a bad word around the holidays. But because it’s such an important topic, consider going green beyond the tree, wreath and mistletoe by recycling a gift you’ve received (whether you liked it or not). Wrap the “green” gift in recycled paper or re-use a gift bag, and don’t hide the fact that your recipient is getting a recycled present. Use it as an opportunity to encourage them to recycle all they can, and if they complain, just say it’s an inconvenient truth, but we all need to reduce, reuse and recycle. Sure, it doesn’t help the economy, but it does help the earth. And it’s free. Just don’t tell the one who originally gave you the gift.

Red Herrings – A red herring is defined as something that diverts one’s attention from the main task or issue. With all the economic uncertainty, work has never been more stressful; meaning all of us could use something that gives us a quick break every now and then. Gifts that offer stress relief or allow us to recharge the mental batteries, such as crossword and Sudoku puzzles, squeeze toys, Rubik’s cube, etc. all make for brief, “healthy” distractions during the day. Affordable and appreciated, these each will be. 

Blue or Black Ink – Most people communicate via email, instant messaging, texting and phone calls, so it’s unusual to receive a handwritten letter. A sincere note can be a unique gift for family, friends and co-workers. You don’t have to be a wordsmith—just offer words of encouragement or share your appreciation for the recipient. The best part? It only costs a stamp. But, it’s likely to hold great value for whatever name follows “Dear…” (Note: make use of technology by drafting it on the computer first and then handwriting the final version—it makes editing easier… and neater).

Purple Time – Give something which people constantly run out of and consider highly valuable, by taking a co-worker, employee, friend or family member out for coffee or inviting them to your home for a meal. The point is finding meaningful ways to invest time in your relationships, whether personal or professional, which will surely have a long-term impact. If you’re the boss, give an extra paid day off to employees, or let them off early from work before holidays. Most people understand the value of time in our busy lives and will appreciate your gift. Plus, it’s free. (OK, purple has nothing to do with time—although Morris Day and the Time performed in Prince’s movie Purple Rain, which is somewhat of a connection. I was just trying to continue to the color theme.)

Making Life Wonderful – At the end of It’s a Wonderful Life, Harry Bailey raises a glass and says, “A toast to my big brother George—the richest man in town.” What made George Bailey rich wasn’t money—it was the positive impact he made on others’ lives by giving himself away, one person at a time. One unique gift that’s always greatly appreciated each holiday season is donating something of value to charity, whether it’s your time, money, clothing, household items, toys or more. Below are seven groups who could use help from you or your organization:

1. Local Families – Ask employees if they know of specific needs in the community, such as those who are out of work, struggling financially, or dealing with private situations that will cause the holidays to be less than ideal. Provide gifts that help fill whatever the needs may be or collect cash donations that can be given directly or used to purchase a grocery store gift card.

2. Local Charitable Organizations – Give your time and money to shelters, food banks, and other charitable organizations in the community. Organizing a group of co-workers to volunteer together is a powerful team- and character-building opportunity.

3. Nursing Homes – The elderly are often the forgotten part of the population. Rounding up a group to visit, serve food, give gifts and just spend time talking will be the highlight of the day for those who live in nursing facilities.

4. My Two Front Teeth - This group offers personalized online gift-giving experiences to aid underprivileged children who are selected through community organizations and allowed to individually pick their one holiday wish. The child’s wish profile is entered into the online database which donors can then find and sponsor. 

5. Millennium Promise – This organization works with impoverished communities, national and local governments, and partner organizations to implement high-impact programs aimed at transforming lives in African communities by engaging nations, corporations and the general public in donation efforts. 

6. Samaritan’s Purse - This non-profit invites you to pack a shoebox with small toys, school supplies, and other gifts for children in need overseas with Operation Christmas Child. They also have a gift catalog with opportunities to purchase items like livestock, water purifiers, and medical supplies for people in impoverished areas. 

7. Charity of Choice – Many people have a preferred charity. Ask your employees which ones they care about and make a corporate donation on their behalf.

So what’s the worst gift you ever received? The most interesting one you’ve ever given? What ways are you going to give toward the greater good this holiday season?

15 comments
chaz
chaz

Very creative ideas. Enjoyed the article immensely. :) C

chaz
chaz

Very creative ideas. Enjoyed the article immensely. :) C

Tracy Stonecheck
Tracy Stonecheck

I love the creative ideas! Especially the ones that suggest helping/giving to others. You can't put a price tag on a heartfelt handwritten note!

Tracy Stonecheck
Tracy Stonecheck

I love the creative ideas! Especially the ones that suggest helping/giving to others. You can't put a price tag on a heartfelt handwritten note!

Angela
Angela

Great ideas. I especially like the idea of writing an actual letter. But the funny part is your suggestion of typing it for editing purposes then handwriting it to mail! Too funny! Your ideas for giving are wonderful!

Angela
Angela

Great ideas. I especially like the idea of writing an actual letter. But the funny part is your suggestion of typing it for editing purposes then handwriting it to mail! Too funny! Your ideas for giving are wonderful!

Scott
Scott

Great ideas. Keep them coming.

Scott
Scott

Great ideas. Keep them coming.

charlie repparcs
charlie repparcs

Great ideas--we should all remember it's better to give than receive. As far as receiving though, the worst present I've ever gotten was one of those wall mounted singing fish.

Alexandria
Alexandria

Hey,

Great gifting ideas, some of them are heart-touching. Would definitely be my choice of gift giving this Christmas.

Also, adding to gifting iPods, it would stand out as a great Corporate Gift. Could be gifted to all employees working in a company, helping in maintaining transparency among them.

Valarie Barnes
Valarie Barnes

Thank you for the GREAT ideas. As for the Wii - there are consoles on eBay from $99. Additional accessories, controllers, games, etc can be marked on the high priority lists for other family or friends to give. You may also consider doing a neighborhood swap - everyone brings expensive toys (instruments, games, etc) that their kids don't actually use and exchange them with other families to give and get what their kids want or will really use (Oprah.com). It is really a great idea and really works! Plus it matches "The Green Gift" idea!

Valarie Barnes
Valarie Barnes

Thank you for the GREAT ideas. As for the Wii - there are consoles on eBay from $99. Additional accessories, controllers, games, etc can be marked on the high priority lists for other family or friends to give. You may also consider doing a neighborhood swap - everyone brings expensive toys (instruments, games, etc) that their kids don't actually use and exchange them with other families to give and get what their kids want or will really use (Oprah.com). It is really a great idea and really works! Plus it matches "The Green Gift" idea!

Lael Trent
Lael Trent

Hey this is a nice blog, and offers some nice suggestion for a Christmas gifts. I think I’ll follow some of them while for some of my colleagues I’ve already ordered the ipod, they all love music. Will load some of their favorite music before giving it to them. Incase you’ve interested in gifting ipods too check out this link http://www.ipodyourlife.co.in/make_it.aspx

Matt Wilson
Matt Wilson

Thanks, Kate--hope you have a happy holiday!

Kate
Kate

What wonderful ideas. I especially like the charitable gift ideas.

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