Not Just More Stuff:

 Intangible Holiday Gift Ideas
By Kater Leatherman

          In light of the grim reality of our economy, intangible gifts just might be the perfect answer to spending less this holiday season. Intangible gifts are appealing because they have the staying power of experiences and memories attached to them. And since they are usually consumed or used in one sitting, they are more eco-friendly.

Whether tangible or intangible, the secret to effective gift giving is to pay attention. Listen for clues from those who you are shopping for — their interests or where they like to spend time. Perhaps a used book store, hardware store, local coffee shop, yoga studio, bakery, wine store or gym. Tickets to concerts, movies or shows and sporting events are usually a hit. Check out to find upcoming live music and tickets. Not sure what their tastes are? Go to and click “merchandise” for a gift card which can be used for a wide variety of events.

Many people don’t take the time or want to spend the money to nurture themselves. So, give a gift certificate for a massage or facial. Pair it with a luxurious scented hand or foot cream. Or gather a few interesting food items from the grocery store and put them in an attractive basket. How about purchasing a skill such as a computer guru to come and clean up their electronics, or a home decorator for a day, or a house cleaner to lend a hand, or chef to come and prepare a meal for the next dinner party.

Children, fortunately, are fairly easy to impress. Give an age-appropriate child a certificate for a manicure or pedicure. To make it even more special, treat yourself to one and do it with them. Most kids love to go to aquariums, amusement parks or hands-on museums. If you have an interesting talent, make something with them; there is no better gift than the gift of your time.

Gifts for teens are a bit trickier. They want stuff that is specific, so it’s probably best to put your cold hard cash into buying them a gift card and letting them get what they want. Technology, video game and music stores with the latest “must haves” are sure to please.

On a romantic note, why not plan a weekend getaway (travel is at the top of most women’s gift lists). If you have kids, ask your parents or in-laws if they want to add to the gift package by taking care of them. You can also choose an activity that you and your partner have considered trying, such as skiing, cooking or kayaking. The lessons to learn the new skill together are the gift. Homemade coupon books are also great fun to give. Ideas include a foot and hand massage, a date night out, a trip to the ice cream store, a picnic, a car wash or whatever else you can think of.

How about gifts that keep on giving such as a magazine subscription. Yes, it’s tangible, but it is also something that can easily be recycled when the next one arrives. For a comprehensive listing of magazines, go online to Amazon magazine directory. You might also consider a one-year membership to a fitness center for someone who has been talking about wanting to get in shape.

And now, for the person who has everything, make a donation to their favorite charity, pick up a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant or make them a home-cooked meal.

As for you? If you are right-sizing your life by scaling back, the thought of adding more stuff might feel like backpedaling. Besides, who needs one more thing to dust, fix, figure out, store or take care of? So ask for intangible gifts and you will more than likely get what you want and perhaps to begin finding material balance.

Kater Leatherman is a professional organizer, homestager and budget redecorator. For more information or to purchase her latest book, Making Peace With Your Stuff, go to


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