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Give Altruistic Gifts This Winter

The holiday season is nigh upon us. Very soon, we’ll be inundated with snow, gifts and above all, companies’ messages about what we need to purchase. The tricky thing is that most companies have gotten incredibly good at persuading us if we purchase this pair of slippers for dad, or that blender for our spouse, then they’ll be truly happy and shower us in reciprocal love.

Gifts are great, but they don’t have to be expensive or purchased at a retail store. There are bigger ways to give gifts; ways that can both show your giftees they are loved and change the world for the better. The holiday season can be an opportunity for consumption or for world-brightening, altruistic gift giving.

Here are some opportunities to be better, more responsible gifters.

Donate a Gift
The first option’s very straightforward: trade one gift for another. Instead of Santa leaving iPads in the kiddos’ stockings, he might consider leaving a note about the gift your children have given to a favorite charity. The dollars that would have gone to those iPads can make many people happy, with cash left over to stuff the stockings.

Be warned: this option can be risky. Kids might get over their gift count being downsized, but it’s important to be tactful with your relatives, friends and spouses. Countless bridges have been burned by violating sacrosanct gift-giving etiquette, so if you have hopes of donating gifts instead of giving them, make sure to communicate those hopes early on, as to not make enemies.

The easy solution that avoids hurt feelings: encourage your relatives to donate your gift. Not only might they be more willing to have their gifts donated in the future, you create the goodwill to start a significant conversation about the cause to which you’re donating your gift.

Save On Gifts, Then Spend Those Savings Charitably
You don’t have to completely forgo giving people gifts to be able to contribute to a charitable cause. An alternative is saving money on the gifts you do purchase, so that you can spend the remainder elsewhere.

One easy way to do this is indulge your crafty side and create your gifts. While you might still need to sink some money into buying supplies, homemade gifts are usually less expensive, and can be full of personality and affection. Compare the homemade coffee mug with the inside joke on it to the alternative, a $10 gift card to Starbucks. Now tell us which one is more meaningful.

Just make sure the gift you make is something the person you’re giving it to will appreciate. Being an altruistic gift giver means giving more meaningful gifts this season. If you don’t take the time to think about what your recipient would be delighted by, you risk being the opposite of altruistic by inflicting a gift upon them.

Purchase Gifts that Support Causes
If all else fails or you simply can’t create a homemade gift that’s relevant to your giftee, you still have options for charitable giving. Big corporations are doing more these days to collaborate with nonprofit organizations to make your purchases philanthropically meaningful.

For example, TOMS will donate a pair of their shoes to those in need around the world for every pair that you purchase. Many companies, such as Gap and Apple, have supported Project (Red) if you purchase certain products. Search online or ask store representatives while shopping if there are any opportunities for your holiday purchases to contribute to a cause.

No matter how you choose to do it, being generous this holiday season is a choice you won’t regret. It isn’t easy to be different—to take the time to change your attitude and go the extra mile for people you don’t even know. But knowing you’re changing the lives of those less fortunate than yourself makes it worth it.