No one likes seeing family or friends struggle under mountains of debt and other financial woes.
It’s even worse when Christmas rolls around. There’s a lot of pressure to give “fun gifts,” such as pricey consumer goods like clothing or electronics, but sometimes what our loved ones really need is a gift that will help them make some real positive headway on their finances.
Here are five great gifts you can give your loved ones this Christmas to help them out with their financial struggles.
A Financial Education
It’s awfully hard to get an adequate financial education these days. Personal finance is woefully underrepresented in schools, and fewer people are able to learn solid lessons about managing money from their parents. That lack of understanding is one of the biggest reasons so many people struggle with money! A good personal finance book or tool can teach your loved ones how to better manage their money and provide them with some valuable insight about the steps they need to take to get out of debt and increase their wealth. Here are a few you might consider:
- A year’s subscription to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Kindle edition: $12.00 USD
- You Need A Budget software: $60.00, but click this link for a $6.00 off coupon!
- Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, Hardcover, $18.47
Volunteer A Helping Hand
Are there things your loved one needs that you can provide just by kicking in a little of your time? Maybe your brother-in-law runs a lawn-care service on the side and needs a new website to help drum up business. If you have the web design skills, offer to build a website for him as a gift. Is daycare killing your sister’s budget? If your schedule allows, offer to watch the kids for free. It’s a great way to get some family time in, and it provides your loved one with something they need without forcing them to shell out for it. Here’s some other ideas:
- Help your mother organize a yard sale to declutter her house and raise some cash
- Spend a few hours helping your niece fill out scholarship applications
- Help your best friend polish his resume and call on some professional contacts to try to find him an interview
A Bill Holiday
What could your friends or family members do with their money if it wasn’t getting consumed by monthly bills? Consider giving them a short vacation from one of their regular monthly expenditures. You could offer to kick in the minimum payment for their credit card bill for the next three months, or maybe pay next month’s electric bill. In some cases, you may be able to contact the company directly to make a payment on your loved one’s account, but if you can’t, just coordinate with your gift recipient to handle the transaction privately. This is a good way to help a friend or family member who routinely makes poor purchasing decisions — since the money is earmarked for a monthly bill, it can’t be used for something unnecessary like a new iPod or TV.
Put a twist on it: You could even give this gift as a kind of “get out of jail free” card: instead of paying the bill in December, write the offer on a card and let your loved one hold onto it. The next time they hit a rough patch, tell them they can cash it in and you’ll help them out. Just be sure to set aside the funds you’ve earmarked this, so they don’t get consumed in your own day-to-day spending.
A Gas Gift Card
Gift cards have become synonymous with Christmas in America. We like to give them, I suppose, because it’s a way of guiding our gift recipient to the kind of gift we wanted to give them, while still letting them choose what they’d like and when to use it. Here’s a new twist on the gift card idea — instead of giving a gift card for a store specializing in consumer goods, consider giving a gift card that temporarily removes a basic need.
Nearly everyone in America needs gasoline for their vehicle (except those living car-free in urban areas with particularly nice mass transit). At current gas prices, a $100 gift card will pay for about 30 gallons of gas — that’s $100 your loved ones can shift to other needs, like paying down debt or finally getting the dryer fixed. Here are some direct links to buy gift cards for three of the major gas station chains in the US.
Cold Hard Cash
My parents primarily give me and my siblings cash for Christmas every year. It’s hard to beat the effectiveness of an envelope full of money. Cash has a flexibility to it that no other gift can match: your loved one can use your gift to buy anything they might need, whether it be new shoes for the kids or a car repair or to pay down some credit card debt.
Not everyone will appreciate a personal finance book or an offer to help with bills. For whatever reason, people can be touchy about letting others help with their financial problems. Sometimes that’s because they’re ashamed, or because they believe their financial woes are their own fault and that they shouldn’t let anyone else help overcome them. Sometimes you just have to accept that your loved one won’t let you help in more direct ways, but you’ll find few people who will turn down an envelope full of cash.
Of course, if your intended recipient has a spending or gambling problem, cash might not be the most effective gift to help them with their finances — in such cases, something like the bill holiday mentioned above might be more effective.
Let them know you care: If just giving cash feels like too much of a cop-out, write your loved one a heartfelt letter. Tell them you know they’ve been struggling, so this gift of cash is your way of trying to take the pressure off them, even if just a little bit. Remind them that you care about them and you want to see them reach a safer financial place. If you feel confident about it, offer to help them if they need any advice or guidance.
Do you have other Christmas gift ideas for friends or family members who are struggling with money? Has anyone ever given you a gift that helped you reach a better financial state? Tell us in the comments!
Photo by Droid Gingerbread